USW lecturer behind rock legend documentary

A scene from Craig Hooper's documentary about Deep Purple.

A scene from Craig Hooper's documentary about Deep Purple. 

The Welshman behind one of the world’s best known rock songs has just finished making his latest album – and a Cardiff filmmaker was there to capture the whole process.

Roger Glover, from Llangorse near Brecon, helped write and came up with the immortal title for ‘Smoke On The Water’, which became the most famous hit for rock legends Deep Purple.

Now filmmaker Craig Hooper, a lecturer on the Journalism degreeat the University of South Wales (USW), has produced a documentary on the writing and recording of Deep Purple’s 20th – and possibly last ever – album.

Roger, 71, said: “I really hope this isn’t our last album. I love what I do. But I know we can’t carry on forever.

“It was great to have the film crew there, especially with them being Welsh. This is the first time anyone has ever been allowed into our most intimate creative space. The whole band were a bit nervous about it but they were so professional that we soon forgot about the cameras. In fact, I think it even pushed us to produce a better album.

“The whole idea came about when I was given an Honorary Fellowship by the University of South Wales for services to music. After the ceremony I was chatting to Craig and the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Julie Lydon, and she suggested we make a film documenting the making of our next album.

“She was keen to involve students and I wanted to give something back to the University so Craig and I began discussing ideas and it went on from there.”

Craig and his film crew from Cardiff, including editor Collin Games, camera operator Trevor Burgess and sound recordist Brian Ullah, flew to Nashville in America and then to Toronto in Canada to film the writing and recording process.

Craig, 45, said: “This was a dream come true for me. I’ve been a fan of Deep Purple since I was a teenager at Barry Boys Comp. Documenting them writing and then recording their album was an amazing experience – their levels of musicianship are off the scale.

“It was also nice to spend some time with them off camera, socialising. They’re all genuinely nice and very funny people. And from a fan’s point of view this is a superb album. It knocks spots off anything they’ve done since the early 70s.”

The album – called InFinite – is produced by Bob Ezrin, whose CV includes Pink Floyd’s The Wall as well as classic albums for Peter Gabriel and Alice Cooper, among many others. The narration for the film was delivered by another rock legend, Rick Wakeman, and the sound for the documentary was mixed by Dai Shell, the guitarist from 70s Cardiff rockers Sassafras.

Students and graduates from USW also got involved in the production. Performance and Media graduate Charlotte Morgan and Journalism graduate Sophia Franklin worked as researchers on the film, and Motion Graphics student Yat Leung produced all of the graphics for the film.

Known as one of the most incendiary bands on the planet, both on and off stage, Purple rode the crest of the tidal wave of musical innovation in the early ‘70s. They helped create a whole new genre of music, recording a string of classic songs such as Highway Star, Black Night and Strange Kind of Woman, and selling in excess of 130 million albums on the way.

The film also sees the band reflecting on the many highs and lows of a career that’s influenced generations of musicians, and they consider a future choice – to retire gracefully or keep on rocking into their 70s.

An extended version of the documentary will be available with the album InFinite, which is being released worldwide on April 7. Fans can also see the film on TV on Sky Arts.

Craig is already working on his next project – running the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival in Transylvania at the end of May – as well as teaching journalism and investigating his next rock documentary for his company Coolhead.

There will be a public screening of the film, along with a Q&A with the filmmakers, at USW’s Cardiff campus on Friday, March 17 at 6pm. Tickets are available here.