Deep Purple's Machine Head was plagued with problems from the beginning. "It's a project that almost got destroyed before it even got started," bassist Roger Glover says in a very matter-of-fact manner during an interview with UCR.

Frank Zappa was playing a casino gig in Montreux, Switzerland when a fan in the audience fired a flare gun at the ceiling, setting the venue on fire. The casino burned to the ground. Here's the problem: Deep Purple had booked that same room to record their sixth studio album -- and in an instant, they found themselves in need of a new plan.

By the time they settled in at the Grand Hotel, they were finally able to record and complete the album. While they had started with 21 days mapped out to work on the project, after navigating the series of delays and obstacles, they found themselves with barely two weeks left.

Ultimately, it was worth the trials and tribulations as Machine Head became a universal classic, loaded from top to bottom with future Purple staples and fan favorites including one in particular, "Smoke on the Water," which chronicled their time there in Switzerland.

More than 50 years later, a new box set looks back at the Machine Head album, with a fresh remix overseen by Dweezil Zappa and previously unreleased live material. Paired with a lengthy essay by journalist Kory Grow, the release offers a complete picture, both in audio and words, of Deep Purple's experiences in December of 1971.

Ultimate Classic Rock Nights host Matt Wardlaw recently spoke with Glover and drummer Ian Paice to get their memories of working on Machine Head. They were coy when it came to the subject of new music. "I'm sure you'll get the results sooner or later," Glover laughed. Indeed, the band subsequently revealed news of =1, their next album, which will be released on July 19.

Watch Deep Purple's 'Smoke on the Water' Video

It's amazing that we're even talking about the Machine Head album when you consider everything that happened in Switzerland.
Ian Paice: That’s true. But it did sort of focus the mind. When you thought you had 21 days set up to do it, it seemed like it should be plenty of time. When that got whittled down to a couple of weeks and then less -- you’ve got nine or 10 days to get all of the stuff done -- you go into a very, very regimented discipline about it. You know you can’t do half a day and then piss off and go have a nice meal somewhere. You’ve got to work it through and get all of the work done in that day that you planned.

So I don’t know, you had no choice -- you had to do it. But I think because of it, we captured a lot of freshness with all of the tracks. Because we only played them all once, twice or three times. We didn’t go over and over again trying to get that perfect impossible track. What we got was deemed good enough. That meant we could get it all done in time. But it was a complete pain, moving from place to place. I wouldn’t wish it on any other band -- well, maybe one or two.

Roger Glover: It’s a project that almost got destroyed before it even got started. So it’s a minor miracle, actually, that we finished an album at all -- let alone, the album that it became. I think what it had was that it brought us together as a band. You know, when you’re living at home, going to the studio every day, the togetherness isn’t quite there. But we were kind of living together, in Montreux. It was us against the calamities -- us against the world, if you like. It brought us together as people, I think. I think that shows. I agree with Ian, there’s a lot of freshness there. Most of the songs were written as we recorded them. Very few of them had [any advance preparation]. We didn’t have a writing session, we’d just come off tour two weeks before. So we didn’t have time to even think, really. It was just spontaneous instinct. I think that’s what gives this album its credibility.

READ MORE: How Deep Purple Emerged From the Flames on 'Machine Head'

The musical interplay between all of you on this album is really something, I really enjoy hearing Jon Lord and Ritchie Blackmore go back and forth.
Paice:
Two great musicians. That makes it a lot easier.

Glover. I guess there is almost an element of, “If he can do that, I can do that,” you know? That’s why Jon took his instrument out of the Leslie [speaker] and put it through a Marshall stack and got that same crunchy, distorted sound that Ritchie was getting.

Paice: They were even [at that point].

Glover: Jon single-handedly invented “organ rhythm.” He found his way of playing that wasn’t just chords -- it was little movements and motifs that he’d hang on there. It was magic.

Paice: From the first record, “Hush,” that was rhythmic. You know, the intro is just rhythmic organ. They’re not actually chords, they’re just wonderful noises, rhythmically in the right place. I’ve played with lots of other guys and they just can’t do it. They are too much, “keyboard players.” [Laughs] I don’t know how you can put it any other way. They don’t think rhythmically like that, a lot of them.

Glover: Right, and Jon was a man of many parts, of course. A consummate musician, classically trained. Blues-influenced. And yet, he knew how to rock out. That’s a different emotion.

What did Ritchie bring with his writing and guitar work, when it came to this band?
Glover: Well, it’s a guitar-based band, I mean, let’s face it. It’s very difficult for anyone to write guitar riffs. If you’re a keyboard player, bass player or drummer, it’s impossible. It has to be led by him. He’s the sort of focal point of most of the songs. He was brilliant. Totally off-the-cuff. He could never play the same thing twice, because he’s that much of a musician -- he’s always exploring things. So to actually capture him doing a simple riff, he realized a long time ago that simplicity pays. You can be as complicated as you like, but it’s going to go right over people’s heads.

Paice: Do you remember when we were doing “Space Truckin’,” he was vehemently opposed to playing anything that sounded like Chuck Berry. He wouldn’t do it. Couldn’t stand it. But we got him to compromise and he played four to the bar [Paice imitates the rhythm]. That’s as far as he would go. But because he did that, it became so much heavier. When he simplified it down again, it suddenly took on a power all of its own.

READ MORE: Ian Gillan Used To Go to the Pub During Ritchie Blackmore's Solos

Listen to Deep Purple's 'Space Truckin''

In the liner notes, Dweezil Zappa notes the depth of this album, the classical influence in the guitar and keyboards, but also, the blues and a little bit of funkiness. You all were making music at a time where all of that could make sense on the same album.
Paice: Well, we broke down the rules. We took all of the barricades down and said, “Well, we can do it. We don’t have to explain why. If we feel like it’s a good idea, we’ll do it.” Even if it had no obvious link to something. You play it and it sounds good. Well, don’t try to analyze why it sounds good or why it should or shouldn’t be that, it just sounds good. Music now seems to have lost all of that freedom. It’s become enclosed in its own little box again, which is so sad. What was happening in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s was, “Hey, guys, the world is yours, do what you want to do.” So we did!

Glover: [Laughs] I think the key to being in a big band is, you don’t really want to take into account what people expect. You don’t pander to your fanbase. You have to lead, rather than follow. That’s difficult to do, because sometimes, you’re in unknown territory. But if you believe it, then it becomes known territory. I spent many years of my life before Purple, being in a band that wanted a number one hit. That’s all we wanted was success, a number one -- the golden goal. We didn’t get it. I joined Purple and I met people who weren’t interested in success, they were just interested in making good music. That’s when success came. So there was a big lesson there for me.

READ MORE: Top 10 Deep Purple Songs

What are some of your favorite memories about the Machine Head period now?
Glover: You know, they’re foggy memories of a small two week period, 50 years ago. Although it is seared into us. I just remember when we first got to the Grand Hotel. We got a carpenter in to put a couple of false walls up. The trek to the mobile to listen to what we had just done…

Paice: ….was daunting. [Laughs]

Glover: There were 29 doors we had to go through or something, around to the balcony and out through the….it was so haphazard and so desperate, really. But it was always funny, as we walked past the balcony, you had a great view of the lake. In the distance, the French Alps were over there. The first time we did it, you go, “Oh, look, there’s the French Alps!” A week later, you’re going, “Oh, it’s the French Alps again.” It was a desperate time, but a happy time. I think we were so intent on getting it done against all of the odds. But as I said, it brought us together.

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