Derek Lawrence Interview
May 2003

Thanks to everyone who sent in questions for former Deep Purple producer Derek Lawrence. Derek begs everyone's forgiveness for taking a while to get round to going through them, blaming problems with Windows XP, but has answered just about everything.

Derek LawrenceThere isn't very much known about the Joe Meek days. How did it work? Were the tracks recorded in a few takes without overdubbing or was Meek a perfectionist who needed a lot of takes?
How much time was needed to record a track (2 hours or one whole day)? What time did these sessions usually start (in the morning)? In the ground floor there was a leather shop. Any stories about Meek causing a disturbance by with the loudness of the music"?
Bernt Küpper

Meek tracks were usually done in the afternoon and evening and then Joe would work most of the night on them. Cutting any one track could take 3/4 days to be finished. I always thought he got on well with the Shentons (who owned the leather shop below the studio), although in the end he murdered Mrs Shenton with Heinz's shotgun.

How much of an influence was Joe Meek on your production style, and did you use any of his techniques on the mk1 albums? David Browne

Joe had a large influence on my production style and yes I used a lot of Joe's echo ideas and his in your face drum sounds.

I assume you first met Ritchie Blackmore during your time with Joe Meek, can you recall that first meeting? How long were you there for and when did you leave and why? Jeff

I first met Ritchie when he was with The Outlaws at a gig at the Harrow Town Hall. I worked at Meek's on and off for about a year and then I just drifted off to do my own thing.

What was your first reaction when you clapped your ears onto Deep Purple? Had you heard anything like it before, and was it a case of "Jesus, what can I make of these herberts?" Craig Storey

When I first heard them there was no Deep Purple! So it all evolved over time.

At first, was there a unified approach to the style of music they wanted to play? Dave Jackson

I was present at the formation of Purple and the form and style evolved over the first two years, from my point of view much of this came from Ritchie's unique style. It is my opinion that Ritch found it hard to copy anything and that's what made him special.

Did you ever meet Chris Curtis or Bobby Woodman while the group was being formed? David Browne

No I didn't.

How was it working with Ritchie Blackmore? Was he more difficult to work with than the others? Gerardo B. Reynaldo

I had known Ritchie for a long time already and it was he who brought me in to the Deep Purple project, and so knowing him as I did I just ignored his winding up of people!

Jon Lord 1968How would you describe each Mk1 Deep Purple member? Marcelo

Paice was very easy to get on with, a very young but brilliant drummer and the most organised. Simper could be very miserable or funny, the kind of guy who always wanted what you had ordered in the cafe! Evans was more interested how he looked. Jon was the trained musician who was everyone's friend. Ritchie was the driving force, a practical joker and wind up merchant and a unique guitar player.

Did you use mk1 to play on your other productions while they were at Deeves Hall? Dave Jackson

The guys played on several things for me during that time i.e. Boz, Dragonfly and others. Some are on that Pre Purple collection Simon issued recently.

What participation did you have in making Deep Purple rise out of Roundabout? Marcelo

Roundabout was just a name to use for some gigs in Scandanavia.

Mk1 Deep Purple pictures always keep me curious - they are very posed, very "sympathetic". They seemed to be managed as a standard "star" band. In Simon's excellent In Rock booklet, he quotes Ian Gillan joking about the "bouffant" hair Deep Purple used. Their sound, though, suggested they wanted to do something different. What were the guidelines in that image production and why did it end? Marcelo

That was the look of the day, suits and poovy haircuts! Don't forget most of the guys had come from backing solo artists on theatre tours, and most backing bands dressed in suits at the time.

For a hand picked 'super group' with financial backing, were you surprised that they were only given two days to record their debut album? Daniel Bellers

I think you are wrong to call it a super group. When they came together they were journeymen musicians who later became a super group. In 1968 the time taken was about normal, you went into the studio with the songs and arrangement in your head and recorded it.

Any recollection as to why the Pye studio was chosen for the first album? Is it still there? Jeff

I'm sorry I really can't remember who booked the studio. I think it has been moved now.
(It was round the corner from Marble Arch - Simon R.)

Why did Deep Purple do so many cover versions in that first formation of theirs? Marcelo

When you're first starting a band it's easier to learn songs you all had played before and then start to compose at a later date.

Deep Purple 1968Were any covers suggested or played which didn't end up being recorded? Sam Reynolds

I think there were many discussed between Ritchie and I. The one I remember most was Makin' Time, Ritchie always liked The Creation version so we ended up doing it on the Green Bullfrog album.

Did you have some part, or voice, in the composing of Deep Purple songs? Marcelo

No part whatsoever.

What did you feel about Ritchie's overuse of wah-wah on the first album, and the strangulated Fender sound? Did you encourage him to return to using the Gibson more on Book Of Taliesyn? David Browne

Sorry but I disagree about the overuse of the wah wah, as most players at that time were using it on the beat but Ritch was playing on individual notes. I always loved the Gibson sound, I thought the notes were much rounder and melodic, but the Fender with the Vox had more sustain and bite.

What was Ritchie's amp set up in the studio on the first three albums; was it all Vox AC30 or a mix of Vox and Marshall? Andrew Good

As far as my memory goes the first two were on the AC30, but the third was the AC 30 in a Marshall cabinet.

Were most tracks effectively recorded live or were there lots of overdubs? Andrew Good

You must remember that we were working first with 4 track, then 8 track, so there wasn't a lot to play around with. On most occasions the basic rhythm track was put down on 2 tracks, vocals and solos mixed down to the other 2. I had learnt to track jump from Bruce Johnson of the Beach Boys at Abbey Road.

Do you feel your style of recording changed over the three Purple albums (both in terms of the sound you were hoping to achieve and even things like how many instruments were recorded together, styles of overdubbing, mic placement etc)? Malcolm Garrard

Rod Evans 1968The main difference in the three albums was that the second and third were recorded at a different studio (Kingsway). The longer the band were together the more time they had to put together original tracks and start to develop a unique sound. The mic set up at that stage was very much done by trial and error, the thing I remember most was putting four screens around the organ's Lesley speakers and lining them with tin foil to try and get a more biting sound!

Was there record company pressure on you to make Deep Purple sound more poppy (whether they liked it or not)? David Browne

We had recorded the first album before any record company heard it, so the answer is no.

Did you think, at the time, that Deep Purple would be as big as it got? Marcelo

Nobody could have known how big they were to become and how long they would last.

Do you remember Deep Purple's first UK gig... was it supporting The Byrds at The Roundhouse? There seems to be some research which shows they did a show there in May right at the bottom of the bill. Ian Ferguson

I do remember a gig at the Roundhouse but that was for a TV thing.

Q 51 - Were you aware of groups like Vanilla Fudge and Iron Butterfly who Deep Purple seem to have based their style on? If so how much did their albums influence the first Purple sessions? Jeff

A51 - Vanilla Fudge and Iron Butterfly were not heard by the boys untill they were touring America and if my memory serves me correctly both those groups were influenced by Cream anyway.

Did you find any members of Deep Purple easier / more difficult to record with (not necessarily a personality based question! Also to do with the band members' expectations of sound, position in mix, final vision of product etc). How much say did you have in this? Malcolm Garrard

I really didn't find anyone hard to work with at first but then everyone became more opinionated as they became more confident, and that is only natuaral. When it came to mixing I did a mix then the boys came in, listened to it and told me what they wanted changed.

Do you remember much about 'Shield' from Book of Taliesyn, which sounds like a particularly large amount of work went into it? Dave Jackson

The Shield doesn't particually stand out to me as being any more difficult than the others.

Why were mk1 made to record three studio albums in under a year, and do you think it was an unhealthy decision? Dave Jackson

In those days three albums in two years was a standard contract! I don't know if it was unhealthy!

Did it mean that you had to rush the production more than you would have liked? Which of the three albums are you happiest with? Dave Jackson

Ian Paice 1968For me those first three albums stand up well for their time, the third album is my favourite simply because the guys had been together longer and were tighter.

Were Tetragrammaton annoyed that the band progressively recorded less and less commercial material? Dave Jackson

As far as I could tell the Tetragrammaton guys were just happy to have an act selling records!

One thing that amazes me is the work Deep Purple recorded at the BBC studios. Other artists have issued compilations of their recordings at the BBC, and some of the Mk1 Deep Purple sessions were released in the remasters. The Beeb seems to have had a great role in developing British bands at the time. How was that relationship with the Beeb? Marcelo.

A few of the BBC producers thought that heavy rock was cool and did a series of sessions. The early Deep Purple ones I went along to to supervise the sessions.

Have you kept any unreleased mk1 recordings, and did you follow their bbc session work? Sam Reynolds

Alas no, all the tapes were kept by management. I was present and worked on the early BBC sessions but again I didn't keep copies.

I have always thought the first three albums were extraordinary in their approach to experimentation. Three tracks that have always been highlights of early Purple for me are Listen Learn Read On, Chasing Shadows and The Shield. Also, can you remember any humorous stories from the early sessions that produced the first three albums? Drew W, Florida

Thank you Drew. I think these tracks came from Jon's classical background intermingled with Ritchies left rock influence although I do see some similar production values that appeared on my later work with Wishbone Ash.

Not really, though I do remember that the boys went to see Rosemary's Baby at the cinema and came back and wrote Why Didn't Rosemary!

Giiven accesss to the multi-tracks for the first three albums, do you think it would be possible to remix them and achieve a heavier sound closer to mk2? Sam Reynolds

As far as I know there have been remixes done by EMI, but it's very difficult as most are just 4 tracks.

How were the orchestral musicians on the early albums chosen, who arranged for them to take part etc.? Jeff

We used a session fixer, who supplied musicians for all kinds of studio sessions.

How did you feel about Jon's classical leanings, and was he allowed to go too far with it in the band's first year or two? David Browne

No, to my point of veiw it was what it was and as such was very suitable for the times.

What was your reaction to hearing that the Albert Hall had been booked, and that Jon was writing the Concerto. Did you think that the band were threatening to disappear up their own backsides? Ian Ferguson

At the time nothing was happening much in England and it was thought by management to be a very good publicity gimmick. Personally I wasn't much impressed.

I seem to recall that you were originally going to be involved with the Concerto project. Is this so? How come you weren't? Jeff

I was never intended to produce Concerto, it was not my thing.

Nick Simper 1968How did you deal with the moment when Ritchie, Jon and Ian Paice decided to replace Rod and Nick? Did you have some part in it? Marcelo

No, I wasn't informed.

Were Evans and particularly Simper fired purely for musical reasons? David Browne

I always knew that Ritchie felt Nick was to rock'n'roll for the band and Rod's tuning left a lot to be desired at times.

When Ritchie was looking for a new singer in May 69 did you make any suggestions? Jeff

No, because Ritchie was looking for a new producer at the same time.

Did you have any personnel suggestions for the band, either before Evans and Paice were hired, or at the end of mk1 when a new singer and bassist were required? David Browne

It had nothing to do with me as I was fired at the same time!

At what point did you part company with Deep Purple, and why? Ian Ferguson

After the third album I was fired - end of story. Actually, it occurs to me that they never officially told me I wouldn't be producing them again!

Do you remember if you produced a version of Hallelujah with Evans and Simper taking part, before Gillan and Glover did their version? How did you learn about the line-up changes? Jeff

No I didn't do a version with any Purple line-up, Roger Greenaway sent it to me as a demo and I said I couldn't see Purple doing it but I passed it on to Ritchie anyway. I went on and recorded it later with my own group for Bell Records in the States.

Did your producing work help make Ian Gillan sound "silver-throated", or were his vocals that
powerful and clear to begin with. Gerardo B. Reynaldo

As I said above I never worked with Ian Gillan.

Was the sound and style of In Rock a surprise to you? Did the appearance of Led Zeppelin have a noticeable impact on Deep Purple mk1's approach? Ian Ferguson

No In Rock didn't surprise me, I knew that's where Ritchie wanted to go. If anything had an impact it was Hendrix.

Were you approached to help with any post mk1 groups, such as Bodast or Warhorse? Sam Reynolds

I was going to something with Nick Simper but never did get around to it.

Does Derek remember when Green Bullfrog was recorded? I have read different dates reaching from mid 1970 til mid 1971. Thank you you Derek, thank you DPAS! Bernt Küpper

The Green Bullfrog album was recorded in 3 days in 1970. I know, I was there!

The CD series The Derek Lawrence Sessions from Line Records, Hamburg was announced as a 5 CD set. Only 3 CDs and a 5 track promo sampler have been released. What about the 2 missing CD releases ? Has the project been cancelled ? Thomas Meyer, Hamburg

Yes the Derek Lawrence Sessions were cancelled, mainly because of a lack of interest from record buyers.

The early 70's 'Babyface ' sessions undertaken by Ritchie (along with Ian Paice) and Phil Lynott have entered Purple mythology over the years. Ritchie is reported as saying two or three tracks were worked up, while Phil in the early 80's stated as many as five songs were in various stages of development. Did you have memory of these sessions, and what (if anything) was consigned to tape? Roy Davies

The three of them did record at The Music Centre at Wembley (November 22nd 1971 - Simon R.). I have no idea of how many or what happened to the tracks. I seem to recall Ritchie telling me that they cut a track by Johny Winters called "Dying To Live".

Do you still have contact with the mk1 members? More specifically: do you know where Rod Evans is now? Marcelo

No, I believe Rod lives in the States.

What did you think of the "bogus Deep Purple" episode Rod got involved in, in 1980? Marcelo

He was just trying to make a living but it was a stupid idea..

How do you compare Deep Purple Mk. 2 with today's latest incarnation? Gerardo B. Reynaldo

I have never worked with either and I can only give my opinion, which is no more valid than yours. For me Mk 2 was fresh, innovative and musically brilliant. Since that line up first time around it has all sounded tired. Sorry!

Our thanks to Derek Lawrence for taking the time out to answer the questions.

photos, copyright DPAS archive & EMI

2003 DPAS/Darker Than Blue.
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