Ian Gillan says that Steve Morse helped rebuild DEEP PURPLE after the band's disastrous final period with Ritchie Blackmore.
Blackmore is a co-founder of DEEP PURPLE and wrote many of their most memorable riffs, including "Smoke On The Water", but he has not played with the group since his 1993 departure.
Morse effectively took over Blackmore's slot in 1994 and has since been in the group longer than Ritchie.
During a brand new interview with SiriusXM's Eddie Trunk, Gillan praised Morse's contributions to DEEP PURPLE, saying: "When he came onboard, he reignited the band. We were pretty low ebb. I mean, [fill-in guitarist] Joe Satriani saved us from drowning completely and got us out of the hole. But Steve was there to help us rebuild with the 'Purpendicular' album, and from there on, we embarked on a completely different regime with a different way of working and everything else. He's been great."
Asked if it was extremely difficult for Morse to replace an iconic guitarist like Blackmore, the singer said: "You must remember a couple of things. DEEP PURPLE was sinking with Ritchie. We were playing to quarter houses in Europe, which is one of our strongest territories — in Germany. Smaller venues, and they weren't even full. So had we continued that way and had Ritchie not walked out, we would have finished; that would have been the end of it. And the other thing was Steve's answer to that question when we did our first press conferences. When somebody asked him, 'How does it feel to fill Ritchie Blackmore's shoes?' And he said, 'As far as I know, Ritchie took his shoes with him when he left the band.'"
Blackmore was recently quoted saying he woud like to play one last show with DEEP PURPLE "for nostalgia reasons." He also previously suggested that the band's manager had blocked him from joining them onstage during the 2016 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony, and he used that as an excuse for not attending the event.
Despite Blackmore being a no-show at Rock Hall, he was given several shoutouts during the induction speeches of the DEEP PURPLE members in attendance. In addition, METALLICA drummer Lars Ulrich, who inducted DEEP PURPLE into the institution, praised "Ritchie fucking Blackmore" for one of the most memorable guitar riffs of all time on "Smoke On The Water".