Don Airey recently took some time to talk to DeepPurple.com about his forthcoming solo album, A Light in the Sky. The album will be released on Mascot Records on February 22nd and can be pre-ordered HERE. When you pre-order, you'll even get a free poster! Make sure to order your copy now, you don't want to miss this!
1. Your new album “A Light in the Sky” has a very ethereal, “space music” type sound. What inspired your interest in this genre?
Don Airey: Interest originally inspired by seeing the film 2001, and director Stanley Kubrick’s use of music by contemporary composers such as Gyorgy Ligeti and Krystof Penderecki. I collect a lot of synthesiser albums by pioneers such as Walter Carlos, Tonto’s Expanding Head Band, Beaver & Krause, Kraftwerk etc., and owning lots of old analog synths and a pile of effects boxes gives one a natural disposition towards the “spacey” side of the sound palette. It must be said that there is a lot more to my album than just that particular element though.
2. Do you have an interest in cosmology in general, or mostly just that particular sound?
DA: My interest dates from the age of 6, when I looked out my bedroom late one winter’s night in the far frozen north of England and saw the Aurora Borealis – an astonishing sight! I own a telescope and while away many an evening in the back garden staring into space. Mind you, I do much the same on a tourbus or in a dressing room. I have lots of books on astronomy, birth of stars, death of stars, the solar system, relativity, theoretical physics, the nature of time, and all that jazz. I don’t actually understand any of them, but they are inspiring nevertheless!
3. Having played in so many bands throughout the years, have you had trouble defining your own sound/style as a musician or have you been able to do that despite playing so many different styles of music?
DA: No matter how hard I try I always end up sounding just like me! Having done hundreds of recording sessions, it never ceased to amaze me after setting up the keyboards and being ready to go, how quickly the realisation would dawn that the artist, producer, director or whatever had absolutely no clue what they wanted. You have to fill up their musical void and in double-quick time, that’s the job. As time is usually of the essence in these situations, you just do what comes naturally to you, as there is no opportunity to think of anything else. Horace, the Roman poet summed it up - “Tibi constet”, or as translated by Shakespeare, “To thine own self be true”, or in modern parlance, “Take the money and RUN”, by far the best answer to stressful situations, musical or otherwise.
4. You’ve played with so many amazing musicians. How did you select the people that you wanted to have play on your new album?
DA: I picked the best people I could think of who were available at the time.
For the complex time-signature stuff I used Darrin Mooney, Primal Scream’s drummer and Laurence Cottle who is the UK’s top session bass player. I have known both musicians for years though they didn’t know each other strangely enough. Both read music, were unfazed by the fact we were recording live, solos and all, and it was once through the chart and they were off! Some of the material such as “Big Crunch” and “Pale Blue Dot” were fleshed out as we went along, the long jam in 7/4 at the end of “Light in the Sky” for instance was completely spontaneous, & all in all we had an exciting couple of days.
Chris Childs and Harry James, Thunder’s rhythm section – again old friends- came in the day after to lay down the more straight ahead tracks – “Shooting Star” was first take, “Love You too Much” second, and I had the enormous pleasure of springing a little surprise vocal duty on Harry on “Rocket to the Moon” at the end of the session.
Guitar duties were handled by Jamiroquai’s Rob Harris who for me is the best six-stringer in England.He lives near me, and we have often worked and written together.
Lidia Baich, a young Austrian classical virtuoso, played the violin parts. We met in 2003 at a Pavarotti and Friends gig in Modena, when she was playing with Bocelli. Being her first venture outside the classical scene, I was a tad apprehensive about flying her in to deepest Lincolshire from Vienna. She was a revelation musically though, and she didn’t half brighten up old Chapel Studios and our wonderful engineer Ewan Davies’ day.
Danny Bowes was a shoe-in for the slow vocal (and for the trip to the pub when day was done) and Carl Sentance who has sung with Persian Risk, Geezer Butler and Krokus did a wonderful job on the three songs given him, coming up with a brace of lyrics as well.
5. How did recording your solo album compare to recording with Ozzy and Randy Rhoades, or Deep Purple?
DA: The main difference was the severe constraints of time and budget that I was under. Most rock albums are informal open-ended affairs, which play havoc with the peace of mind of the people putting up the money (and that of the band members putting up the music) but it seems part and parcel of the way it all works. ALITS in contrast was like an old fashioned session, prompt starts, music handed out, engineer saying “rolling” over the talkback, get it right first time, live solos, no cheating, all done and dusted in 20 days, in short, serious fun! A lot of rock albums I have been involved in, especially in the old days, have been quite miserable experiences, the memory of which time does little to alleviate!
6. How does playing in Deep Purple compare to the other bands you have played with?
DA: Very very favourably. I can’t think of a time when we have ever done anything less than a good show, and there’s a family atmosphere throughout the organisation that smoothes over most of the logistical or temperamental problems, that seem to dog most bands’ progress.
7. What’s next for Deep Purple?
DA: Touring, touring, touring…….recording…erm…more touring.
8. Any chance of a Don Airey solo tour?
DA: Whether permitting in April/May (Whether there is a gap in the DP schedule)
9. Now that you’ve finished this project, what other musical avenues would you like
DA: L’Avenue Chopin – it’s a street I walked down recently late one evening in the seedier part of Chateauroux, France – only kidding, maybe a piano album.
Want to hear a song off Don's new solo album? Check out "Shooting Star" HERE. For more info about Don, check out his bio HERE.