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Don Airey

Interview with Don Airey from Don Airey
by Yiannis Zervos at 18 April 2008, 1:15 AM

When you're setting up questions for Don Airey you wish you could have the time to ask him for each one of the countless projects he was involved during his carrer. In this interview, Don Airey speaks to Metal Temple about his recent solo release A Light In The Sky, about his adventures with Ozzy, about his love for Sunderland F.C. and many more.

Mr. Airey, thank you for taking the time to answer to Metal Temple’s questions.First of all, congratulations on your solo album A Light In The Sky. How did you come up with the idea for a new album ’under’ your name, after K2?

Astronomy is an interest of mine, and from looking through a telescope in my back garden, and reading a ton of books about the cosmos, an idea gradually formed in my head to create a one-hour musical journey through space and time.

In A Light In The Sky I could distinguish mostly Fusion Jazz experimentations. On the other hand, there were inspired Rock songs like Shooting Star. What is the direction you wanted to give to A Light In The Sky?

The direction was to create a mixture of all my influences and bands that I have played with, such as COLOSSEUM II, RAINBOW, Ozzy, Gary Moore etc., and to add a touch of classical music, and obviously a decent helping of synthesiser sounds creating the spacey ambience that is the album’s main message.

In your new album you used Hammond keyboards and modern synth sounds. What is your favorite kind of keyboard sound?

Hammond organ absolutely. One of the main objects of the recording was to capture the sound of my 1965 Hammond A100 and its two Leslie speakers live. Ewan Davies, the engineer at Chapel Studios, did a great job of that I must say.

How much time did it take you to record and mix A Light In The Sky? There where any problems during this process?

19 days from start to finish. We ran a very strict schedule, I wrote music out for all the musicians, and most of the tracks were recorded live, solos and all, in one or two takes. We had some serious fun! The only slight hiccup was the mix of the title track A Light In The Sky - the three minute jam at the end of the song proved a little problematical for some reason, though it is my favourite thing on the album.

A Light in The Sky has a space traveling feeling. Your music, song names and lyrics are full of constellation names. What do you thing when you’re looking on a starry night sky?

I usually think What the hell are we doing here, probably the only sentient beings alone in this huge universe, stranded in an obscure corner of the Milky Way on the tiny pale blue dot that is Planet Earth?. Then I think, It’s time to go to the pub.

In your career you worked with the biggest names in Hard Rock music. You’ve worked with ’difficult’ personalities such as Ozzy Osbourne and Ritchie Blackmore. Which are the moments you will always remember? Where there any difficulties you thought you couldn’t handle?

I once had a fight with Ritchie, backstage, just before the keyboard solo, nothing very serious and it was all forgotten next day. There were lots of difficult moments with Ozzy - we were air-lifted from a festival once in Minnesota in a military helicopter which had no door - as the craft rose in the air Ozzy went to the open gap and sat down with his feet dangling over the edge. Nobody dared move or speak as we all thought he was going to jump and end his current misery. He didn’t jump needless to say.

One of my all time favorite albums is 1987 by WHITESNAKE. What do you remember from the recording sessions of this album? What is your opinion for John Sykes and David Coverdale?

It was one of the best sessions I ever did. Mike Stone, the producer and engineer, was getting an extraordinary sound and he set a very high standard. John Sykes was on fire, and produced some of the best guitar playing I ever heard. Mr Coverdale, didn’t sing a note as he was having terrible voice problems, which took a year or more for him to sort out - the keyboards were recorded in 1985 in actual fact.

You are currently the full time keyboard player of DEEP PURPLE. How this collaboration came along? What are your feelings about John Lord?

Roger phoned me up in August 2001 and said that Jon was ill and could I stand in for him for a week. When I asked when the tour started he said tomorrow. As it turned out I did the full month with them, and when Jon eventually retired they very kindly asked me to join the band. A hard job following that guy I must say, one of the greatest Hammond players that ever lived, and one of the nicest and funniest people you could ever meet.

Are there any future plans for DEEP PURPLE? Any plans for a tour or new album maybe?

Touring ’till the end of the year with the Rapture Of The Deep album, and then going back into the recording studio, to make another album.

I wonder. Is there anyone in the Hard Rock music business you haven’t worked with, and you would really love too?

Eddie Van Halen is a wonderful guitar player, and not bad on the keyboards as well! Lucky enough to see him doing a demo for Peavey at the NAMM show 4 years ago when he was recovering from a serious illness and he was just fabulous. Met him a couple of times but never anything more.

Mr. Airey you are a busy man. You have any free time to watch your favorite Sunderland A.F.C. (it’s been a hard season for the Black Cats so far)? You have hobbies or surf the Internet?

I visit the Stadium Of Light at least 3,4 times a year with my two sons who are even more fanatical supporters than I am, and I follow the team’s progress wherever I am in the world. Hopefully they can hang on to their Premiership status for another season. I don’t bother with the Internet much, but quite keen on keeping the garden looking nice, and watching the birdlife during the day is interesting, and the stars at night similarly.

How do you feel about people that download your music instead of buying your CDs? You think Internet and downloading is a way to increase your popularity by making your music accessible to more people? Or you think that your work is been ’stolen’ in a way?

I just wish we all still made vinyl albums for big record companies - life seemed so much simpler, and music sounded so much better!!

Mr. Airey thank you for your time.


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