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SoulMonster

1994-06-DD - Interview with Gilby

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1994-06-DD - Interview with Gilby

Post by Soulmonster on Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:00 am

Gilby Clarke succeeded with something that everyone failed with this year - gather the whole Guns N' Roses on album. Axl, Slash & Co. participate on Gilby's soloalbum "Pawnshop Guitars".
And while the future of Guns N' Roses continues to be uncertain Gilby starts a solo trip.
As a true rocker he took his Harley-Davidson to meet Martin Carlsson in Beverly Hills.

- Sorry I'm late. Took my Harley today.
Gilby Clarke is, as usual, late. But you can't do anything but forgive him. He always has so cool excuses.
Last time we met in London Gilby was an hour late. He had gone a few hours out of London just to buy a cool guitar he had heard about.
And now the reason is a Harley-Davidson. In super-stylish Beverly Hills, besides.
Can it be more rock n' roll?
- I love my Harley. It's a "panhead" from 1965 which has been featured in the American magazine Hot Bike, he says happily laughing.
Gilby Clarke is just about to launch his solo debut "Pawnshop Guitars". The love for his Harley shows in the song "Johanna's Chopper".
- Yep, this is Johanna, he laughs and pats gently the tank of his black beauty.
He would never give up his bike, even though he broke his wrist in a motorcycle accident in May last year. But as he says:
- I was driving offroad then, so it doesn't count.
Rock N' Roll as said.
Disregard the love for his bike and baseball, that he plays in Guns N' Roses and the fame that's unavoidable. The human Gilby Clarke is one of the nicest ones I've met in the often false and treacherous rock-business.
A musician with distance and a never-ending smile.

Why did you pick the title "Pawnshop Guitars"? It reminds me of the pawnshops in Hollywood and all the struggling musicians that visits them.
- That's true, but it's not the signification just because I'm not a struggling musician.
- Think that the title sums up that I'm a guitarist that writes songs and sings. That's how I look at myself.
When I spoke to Duff McKagan last winter he said that you asked him to put bass on one song when you were in New York but that it ended up with him doing everything. You were said to been too lazy.
- [laughs] Well, you know Duff… We were in New York and were doing a song by Clash. It was obvious that he was going to play bass, but I was really impressed by Duff's drumming style on his solo album so I had him play drums also.
- Duff and I played in the studio and when the drums were recorded I said "fuck it, why don't you do the guitars too… by the way, you can sing too!". But only the bass and drums came on the album because Frank Black who was in Pixies came down and did the guitar.
The first song "Cure Me… Or Kill Me…" is hard and not very representative for the album. It sounds like a typical last-minute song that's being added to an album.
- I swear to God, it was exactly what happened! The album was completed when I wrote the song. Damn, so funny you noticed it!
It's a new song and I have more songs in that style, but I didn't put them on. Thought I needed one more rock-song.
The following song "Black" is a straight opposite and reminds not so little of Beatles' "Strawberry Fields".
- It tries to be "Strawberry Fields" too. As a musician you have your influences that you put in a bowl of soup and take ladles from. You hear that I have my Beatles and my Stones on the album. Ever since I was a little kid Beatles and Stones have been my two favorite bands.
- We did "Black" and I started to think on the mellotron in "Strawberry Fields" that sounds incredibly good. I dug up a mellotron and asked Dizzy (Reed, keyboardist in Guns N' Roses) if he could play on it.
- I try to do every song as good as possible without making it too nice. Never sacrifice my guitar for something else, but in this case the mellotron works.
Throughout "Black" is there a guitar-riff that sounds exactly like Slash but it's you that plays. Have you picked that from him?
- It's Slash's sound. A positive thing with my entrance in the band was that Slash finally got a rhythm guitarist whose style he likes to play with. Slash plays that way and I've always done that.
- I did use one of his secrets though - the sound that borders to noise. You know, his howling feedback.
- Live you get that sound all the time, but in the studio it's almost impossible. I've been near him a long time and we have the same guitar technician so I went to Adam and asked, "Adam, how the hell manages Slash to create that sound?". He showed me and now it's on my album.
So Slash has been a big influence on you lately?
- Yes, a big influence. I played far down on a Les Paul before Slash started playing guitar. But while I'm from a classical blues-school and had Beatles and Stones as mayor model Slash mixes blues with metal. That side I've always ignored but Slash has brought the hard-rocker inside of me to life. If I had done this album three years ago my solos would have been a lot bluesier.
It's a lot of pop on "Pawnshop Guitars".
- Pop… I can't escape it. I think there's pop in all good bands from Guns N' Roses to Metallica. When you pick the song from these bands that you like most, it's one where the pop shines through.
- The pop is more noticeable in my music though, because I love melodies. In hard rock it's almost only the vocals that are melodic, but I want the music to be melodic too.
It's quite repetitive music.
- Yep, that's pop! I have a formula for songwriting that I've used during a long time. It comes from Beatles and 70-tiesbands like Sweet and Slade.
You don't stand out like a traditional hardrocker.
- No, I'm not. But I like hard music and noisy guitar solos. Like to take old pop songs and blow them apart with a loud guitar.
Have to say that your poppy side is better then the bluesy.
- Really? I lost the blues totally for a while when I was depressed. It can be hard to believe, but it's true. Then Beatles and pop came in my life again and it's not until lately that the blues has returned.
- Don't listen especially much on blues, it's more my way of playing that is blues.
How did you manage to get a guy like Frank Black to play on your album?
- I've known Frank since he was in Pixies, but can't remember how we met. He has always said "I'm going to do a solo album and then you're going to play guitar" which I thought sounded really cool. He liked me because I was unknown, so when I joined Guns N' Roses he said "I can't have you on my album". When it was clear that I was going to do an album I said "Frank Black is going to play guitar".
So you should have played on his album?
- Yes, and it was thought that I was going to participate on his second album which he's just finished. I haven't had enough time lately though. But the reason that I didn't play on his debut was that I was in Guns N' Roses. You know, if you're famous.
You're not "cool" if you're in Guns N' Roses.
Exactly, you're mainstream.
- Do you know Material Issue? I played on their second album that was recently released and that was fun. Have to do something with Frank Black again.

Everyone from Guns N' Roses participates on "Pawnshop Guitars". Was it hard with the contracts to get Geffen's permission for their participation?
- No, one cool thing with Guns N' Roses is that everyone can do things on their own. If Axl wants to sing on an album Geffen is not likely to say "sorry, you can't". The funny thing was that everyone wanted to play with me and didn't feel forced to.
- I don't know why Axl didn't play on Duff's album, but he was easy to work with on mine. He came down to the studio, wasn't terribly late [laughs] put down the vocals and the result was good.
I was surprised that you chose Rolling Stones' "Dead Flowers", since Axl always tried to escape comparisons between Guns N' Roses and Stones.
- We did "Dead Flowers" in Milton Keynes in England last year and after that we did it occasionally. Axl and I sang it together and I really wanted it to be on my album. My version is a bit tougher then theirs though.
- Axl came down, played piano and when he was ready he said "do you want me to sing too?". I was surprised and answered "and I thought you didn't want to".
Do you have any apprehension about how your album will be looked upon?
- It feels strange, because I don't have a clue. "First Izzy, then Duff and now the next guy from Guns N' Roses that does a solo album" is probably the first that people are going to think.
- You have to remember that we're only a small part of Guns N' Roses because Axl is of course the leader and after that comes Slash. It is true that the rest of us is contributing with material, but if you are a productive songwriter like myself it's impossible to give them all compositions.
- I gathered all my songs and did it. The result was good, but it's so different that people might be frightened. It's not a hard-rock album, it's rock with pop-melodies.
- People will probably check it out because of my connection with Guns N' Roses, but hopefully I can also reach out to a totally different audience. There's such width here.
How did you come to Virgin? I heard that an old pal signed the contract with you.
- True. Danny Goodwin on Virgin has worked with me in six years and my old band Kill For Thrills had a publishing contract with him.
- When I decided to do an album a lot of record companies popped up and screamed excited "Guns N' Roses!". It was hard to see which was honest and believed in me apart from my participation in Guns N' Roses-
- Virgin had a cool adjustment and another plus was that Keith Richards is on Virgin. If Keith can be in Stones and be a solo artist on Virgin I can do the same thing [laughs].
But wasn't Geffen the first choice?
- No, I have no contract with Geffen but a contract with the band (Guns N' Roses). It's the same thing with Dizzy and Matt (Sorum, drums) who also has been contracted by the three original members of Guns N' Roses.
- Axl, Slash and Duff is what remains of Guns N' Roses and the rest of us is just hired members. They have a hundred dollars and we ask "can we also have a hundred dollars?" and they give us a hundred dollars when they feel like it [laughs].
- Geffen tried to get me, but I let Guns N' Roses take care of that part.
Will Virgin use the name 'Guns N' Roses' in their marketing and put a colorful label like "Axl and Guns N' Roses participates" on the cover?
- [laughs] They can't do that. Guns N' Roses is on Geffen and I'm on Virgin and Geffen wont allow us to do things like that.
- You can't stop it in the press, but it's OK. Guns N' Roses is a big part of what I do.
You had a motorcycle-accident last year and Izzy Stradlin replaced you for some gigs in Europe. Where you worried that he had come back to stay?
- Yes, the accident came like a serious chock for me. It happened on a day-off and I was in a fucking hospital with a broken wrist when we were going the next day!
- The whole Europe leg was left and it included a lot of important places that we hadn't visited yet. All the arrangements were done and there was no way that we could reschedule the tour.
- Someone wondered "how will we find a replacer? Are we going to do it without Gilby?" and someone else came up with the idea "we'll ask Izzy, he knows all the songs". I went totally… "What? Can't you get someone else but Izzy? I have several pals that can learn the songs in no-time".
- It was a chock. To be totally honest I was so gone due to all the analgesic medicine that I took, so I wasn't thinking entirely clear. That's why it didn't take me so hard then.
- After having rehearsed with Izzy for a week in Israel Slash called me and asked, "when will you come back? Are you sure you can't come a little earlier?".
- I think Izzy had fun during those weeks but it wasn't his thing really. They thought it was good that Izzy was there, but they didn't feel comfortable with him.
- I talked with Izzy on the phone all the time. I even played with him later on-stage in England.
Didn't it feel strange?
- Yeah, really. I came out of the hospital late after having went through a surgeon operation. Couldn't even look at the band, but had to stay in a hospital in USA.
- I came to Izzy's last gig in Milton Keynes in England and I sat by the side of the stage. I thought "but what's happening here. This is my part!". Even though it was Izzy's from the beginning. He used all my old equipment too, so it felt very weird.
- Then I went on-stage and sang a song with the band. I didn't notice I sang it on my own! We never rehearse and Axl came to me and said, "we do a cover of Rolling Stones. Izzy knows everything with Stones" and so we played "Dead Flowers". Axl said, "hit it!" and I thought we were gonna sing together. There I was in front of 50,000 people and sang [laughs].
- It felt good that Izzy and I could talk. We hadn't been talking with each other since I took over after him.
What happened then with the relationship with Izzy? A week later in Stockholm Axl told Izzy to fuck off.
- Since I couldn't play it was intended that Izzy was going to take my place for the first five shows and then stay if he was needed. We didn't know if I could play, because I held a guitar for the first time exactly before my "first" gig.
- Izzy had promised to stay with us, but after Milton Keynes he said, "I call to see if you need me" and went off. Axl was really pissed.
- This is not my opinion, but what the others have told me - there was a lot of bad blood between Axl and Izzy and when they then sat down and talked everything was cool. They had fun together but as soon as Izzy had made his money he left. And now there's bad blood again.
And you were completely gone after all the medications you had taken?
- Yes, I was totally fucking gone [laughs]. Man, I don't remember much of the first three, four concerts!
- I had come from an operation a week earlier and was already playing guitar. Not so good though, if I remember correctly.
Has the accident affected your guitar playing?
- Yes, to a certain extent. It's going back to normal, but during a long period I was slower then usual. Some stuff I could do fast before goes a little slower today.
- Not that anyone might notice it, but as a guitarist you develop all the time and the accident has delayed my development with one year. Do you see the scar there? (Gilby pulls up the sleeve and shows a wrist that's apparently has had a bump)
Do you dream of being a star of your own?
- You know what, I'm not in this business at all to be famous and make money. I was just as happy before I joined Guns N' Roses as I am now.
- Several pals of mine has released good albums that hasn't done anything, but I usually say to them "the most important thing is that you're satisfied and can say that it's your songs that actually got released".
- When you reached success the thought "what am I going to do now?" almost immediately comes. I know that many sighs when they hear me saying things like that, but it's actually a really hard situation to deal with.
- But of course I want the album to sell. I asked if they wouldn't give me ten percent off just so that more kids could afford it [laughs].
I imagine you as a guy who walks around in town with a guitar on the back.
- [laughs] I don't know if it's correct with the guitar, but I walk around a lot. Often go to record stores and forgets everything else. Stands there and picks records and suddenly some kids comes and say "but isn't it you that…?". I haven't really understood this yet.
Do you live for rock n' roll?
- Rock n' roll is an important part of my life, but if music was taken from me I wouldn't fall to pieces. I would probably work with motorcycles if that happened.
- The success hasn't changed me. If you come home to my house you'll se guitars thrown everywhere and posters with Beatles on the walls. Just like before.
And now you're going out to promote "Pawnshop Guitars"?
- Yes, I will do everything. There will be some videos ("Tijuana Jail", "Cure Me… Or Kill Me…", "Black" and "Skin & Bones" is the four he chooses from) and I will tour the whole world. First the States and then Europe, Australia and Japan.
- Now when the album is ready and I'm satisfied with it this is my priority. I will work hard for it!
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