Ian Gillan recalls early Deep Purple days: 'I used to eat dog biscuits from the local pet shop'

Deep Purple's Ian Gillan
(Image credit: Daniel Knighton/Getty Images)

The formative years of any serious rock band usually tends to be far from the glamourous dream we imagine it to be. From sleeping in the back of cramped tour buses unable to afford comfortable hotels, to slogging it out for days wearing the same unwashed underpants, at the beginning, the rock'n'roll lifestyle is very much rooted in struggle. For Deep Purple's Ian Gillan, things were so bad at the start of his career that for a time, he actually could only afford to eat dog biscuits.

Speaking to MOJO about this early period, Gillan recalls having so little money that he "supplemented my diet with dog biscuits from the local pet shop". Despite being so poor, he adds "The adversity is part of the fun. You don’t think it is at the time, but it is.”

In 1969, Gillan and bassist Roger Glover, who played together in Episode Six, replaced Deep Purple’s original frontman Rod Evans and bassist Nick Simper. This new line-up became known as Purple’s classic ‘Mark II’ incarnation, and saw the pair along with Ritchie Blackmore, Jon Lord and Ian Paice, make their debut at the Speakeasy in London on July 10 that same year.

Thinking back to this pivotal moment, Gillan says “I was thrilled, scared. I thought, ‘This is what it’s all been leading up to’.”

While drummer Ian Paice added, “As soon as Gillan started singing it all made sense."

Deep Purple's road to legendary status has certainly been a rocky one, so much so that at one point, the vocalist said that he "would rather slit my throat than sing with that band again". In spite of their many ups and downs though, Gillan says that he still loves playing with the group.

“I can’t in a million years imagine any of us being close socially if we weren’t in Purple,” he admits. “The bonding factor is the music and the humour… I’m underplaying it, but I absolutely adore it.”

Liz Scarlett

Liz works on keeping the Louder sites up to date with the latest news from the world of rock and metal. Prior to joining Louder as a full time staff writer, she completed a Diploma with the National Council for the Training of Journalists and received a First Class Honours Degree in Popular Music Journalism. She enjoys writing about anything from neo-glam rock to stoner, doom and progressive metal, and loves celebrating women in music.