Ian Paice: And The Origin Of Progressive Metal

Ian Paice

Few bands have enjoyed the longevity of Deep Purple or survived the endless lineup and style changes that the group has weathered over the past three-plus decades. Such a healthy lifespan can be easily explained as a byproduct of the masterful musicianship and stylistic diversity found on pop tunes like “Hush,” “Hey Joe,” or “Kentucky Woman,” intermingled with their original metal and keyboard-driven progressive rock styles on “Burn” or classic metal anthems like “Smoke On The Water.” Founding drummer Ian Paice has been propelling the band from the beginning with his great technique, inventive parts, fast foot, and blistering single-stroke rolls. His influence on modern drumming can’t be overemphasized, as he arguably had a hand in the birth of both metal and progressive rock drumming. Not a bad pedigree. Flip the page to look at some of his flashier moments.

DRUM! Notation Guide

“Hush” from Shades Of Deep Purple

This cover was one of Deep Purple’s early hits. Propelled by Jon Lord’s funky Hammond organ work and Paice’s cool grooves and fills, the song’s great success now seems inevitable.

“It’s quite hard to remember that far back,” Paice admits. “Basically it’s a samba. Obviously I wasn’t trying to play the same way that a guy with congas and hand drums would do it. But I was keeping that pulse that the organ was doing in my mind in a way to complement the fairly straightforward rock-and-roll rhythm I played, so try to maintain the inherent swing of the samba while you’re playing. It finds its own feel.”

During this period, Paice’s drumming was a bit reminiscent of Mitch Mitchell’s jazzy rock drumming with Jimi Hendrix. Check out the great triplet fill that sets up the “na-na-na-na” vocal refrain. It’s okay to sing along.

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“Chasing Shadows” from Deep Purple

Here Ian Paice proves that he paid close attention to practicing rudiments at his drum lessons. By playing a double paradiddle — LRLRLL RLRLRR (remember Ian’s a lefty) — with his right hand moving between his high tom and mid tom and his left hand staying on the floor tom, Paice creates a clever tribal Afro-Cuban groove.

“You put all the paradiddles into a 4/4 tempo and they work very well,” Paice explains. “It was interesting flipping the hands between two drums to create the semi-jungle feel. It was one of the times when the drum pattern created the song. I was just having fun with it by myself on the kit, and the guys came in and found that the feel was something they really liked, and started creating the song around it.”

He plays quarter-notes on the downbeats and closes his hi-hat on 2 and 4. The percussion enters after four bars, making it a bit harder to decipher how he executes this cool groove.

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“Hey Joe” And “Child In Time Bolero”

Could a song be more politically incorrect? “Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?” Well, Joe’s on his way to murder his girlfriend for cheating on him, and then he’s going to escape to Mexico — not the greatest caper ever planned, but it does make for a dramatic song. Deep Purple’s take on the classic adds a two and a half minute intro built around a bolero groove that ends with a quarter-note triplet. It might be more suitable as the theme music at a bullfight.

“We had the intent of changing it and arranging it à la Vanilla Fudge,” Paice says. “It’s one of those songs that no matter who does it, it will never quite be what Hendrix and Mitch [Mitchell] and Noel [Redding] created. Sometimes there’s a benchmark set the first time you hear [a song]. And that sort of tune did give a lot of freedom rhythmically for the drummer to just sort of wave his arms ’round a bit more than he normally would.”

Paice also plays a similar if more conventional bolero pattern in Deep Purple’s “Child In Time.” Note: The bass drum part is so quiet that it could be a little different than what we have notated here.

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“Pictures Of Home” from Machine Head

Paice enters “Pictures Of Home” with an absolutely killer fill from the Live At Royal Albert Hall CD. It sounds polyrhythmic because he groups these linear ruffs in clusters of three eighth-notes for sections of this fill.

“My idea for it was to use it the same way a magician uses slight of hand to deceive you — the drum intro is meant to deceive your ears because it’s a great tumbling load of notes,” Paice says. “I’m actually thinking of three beats against two when I’m playing, so I’m just trying to misdirect the listener as to where the 1 in the bar is, and it works well.”

If you want to learn it, try playing flams instead of the thirty-second-notes notes at first. Once you get the basic rhythm and voicing down, widen the flams into thirty-second-notes. Playing e and ah with your feet may seem very strange and difficult unless you try it that way first.

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“Burn” from Burn

If you’re not familiar with Ian Paice’s incredible drumming and Ritchie Blackmore’s ability to craft an unforgettable guitar riff, this song should clue you in. “Burn” kicks butt and blends Deep Purple’s progressive rock leanings with their metal influences.

Paice’s blistering single-stroke assault propels this tune much like Pierre Van der Linden did in “Hocus Pocus” by the Dutch prog band Focus (but fortunately without all the yodeling and whistling). You’ll need to warm up and get a triple shot of espresso before attempting this one.

“We were down in a place in Wales, and the guys were running a part of the song that would become ’Burn,’” Paice remembers. “They were going over and over it, and I was bored stiff. And as they did it one more time I just started to solo under the chords they were playing — staying in time but totally ignoring what they were doing. And they all stopped and said, ’That was great. That’s what it needed. Do it again.’”

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“Fireball” from Fireball

Want to improve your feet? Put your double pedal in a closet until you can play the intro to “Fireball.” This tune has another blistering Ian Paice drum intro that helped establish him as one of the best drummers in rock.

<.p>This fast intro would challenge any drummer to play, let alone create, which makes it even more amazing that this track chronicles the very first time Paice had ever experimented with two bass drums. “The song had basically been written, and I knew what I was trying to achieve with the drum intro,” Paice explains. “Being a one-bass-drum player, I was trying to find ways of simulating what would happen with two bass drums. I initially started by trying to play all the notes of that double-bass-drum pattern with just my left foot. I could just about get the speed, but I couldn’t get any power to make it sound convincing.

“Luckily for us, the night before, The Who had been recording in the same studio, and Keith Moon’s kit was still there — the roadies hadn’t taken it away. So I took one of his bass drums out of the case and stuck it next to mine, and for the first time ever I just played the pattern with the two kicks. That gave the power and the feel to set the song up. It’s not a difficult part, but it’s a great part for that song.”

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“Smoke On The Water” from Machine Head

This is the rock anthem. The song’s massive popularity has lasted for decades, and learning to play the intro is one of the first tasks every guitarist must tackle. Paice plays an accented sixteenth-note pattern on his hi-hat, gradually building the intensity until the vocals enter. He uses buzzes, ruffs, and occasional hi-hat openings during the groove to help subtly shape his beats around the vocal lines, which helps make his part breathe. He punctuates all the section changes with very tasty fills. Chops are required.

“When we were recording the Machine Head album, the first track that we did was the backing track for ’Smoke On the Water,’” Paice explains. “We did it in a ballroom right across from the Grand Hotel in Montreux. We were recording in the evening, and Montreux that time of year is a sleepy little Swiss town. When there is no other noise and you have a rock and roll band playing very loud in an empty ballroom, the sound goes for miles. We were just about getting towards the end of the take for the basic tracks and the police were trying to break into the ballroom to stop us because of all the complaints about the sound. And the road managers were actually holding the doors shut to keep them from breaking in before we finished the track.

“Then we went on to record the rest of the record, and we thought no more about it. It was just a backing track with a nice riff. It was only after the casino burned down that the riff and the words came together. And the words came from Roger [Glover, bass] watching the smoke from the casino drift lazily across Lake Geneva. It’s a pretty controlled track from the drums. There’s a little bit of phasing at the end on the cymbals, because that was a time when we used phasing. It was a nice effect.”

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“Highway Star” from Machine Head

This is another great hard rock tune and perhaps the ultimate Deep Purple track from the classic lineup featuring Ian Gillian. According to Paice, the song was an homage to all the great early rockers who influenced the bandmembers.

“’Highway Star’ is out-and-out rock and roll,” he states. “It’s taking all the influences from the great stuff from the ’50s and throwing them all together in one joyous piece of mayhem. All the ideas — they come from Little Richard, they come from Gene Vincent, they come from Elvis Presley — they come from all those rock giants. It was the music that we grew up with, and it meant something to each one of us.” Check out this perfect drum fill that Paice places just about a minute into the tune. It in itself is a classic slice of rock history.

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