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2002.01.DD - Classic Rock Revisited - Interview with Gilby

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2002.01.DD - Classic Rock Revisited - Interview with Gilby Empty 2002.01.DD - Classic Rock Revisited - Interview with Gilby

Post by Blackstar on Wed May 06, 2020 8:12 pm

Classic Rock Revisited Presents An Exclusive Interview with.....

Gilby Clarke

Gilby Clarke first found fame as a member of Gun's & Roses. Since leaving the band he has chosen to spend his time jamming with former members of the Stray Cats and LA Guns in clubs and making solo albums instead of trying recapture life as a mega rock star. In his spare time he has released several solo albums including the 2002 release Swag. Swag is a straight ahead rocker that will bring to mind early Cheap Trick. Included is a version of Bowie's Diamond Dogs that is sure to satisfy any rock fan who is tired of hearing the same old same old.

Clarke was fun to talk to and we wish him success on his solo efforts. You can check out his official site at www.gilbyclarke.com . Special thanks for this interview goes to Spitfire Records and Carol Kaye.


The Interview

Jeb: I have been listening to Swag and it ain’t too bad!

Gilby: The Les Paul can do a lot of damage!

Jeb: One of the things I liked about it is the fact that it has great continuity. It feels like an album. You know what I mean? Some albums sound like a bunch of songs and then sometimes they seem to just fit.

Gilby: Realistically, this is the fourth album that I have made on my own. They are not much different from each other. My goal is to make an album that I would want to buy. I just keep writing and writing and when I get 12 songs then we start cutting. To me, what is different about this record is that it is much more rock. The other albums were more versatile as they had some roots, some blues and some pop. This is pretty much a rock record.

Jeb: By design?

Gilby: By accident! I was making another album with another band that was very rootsy, kind of an old Stones type record. That kind of sucked up all of my rootsy material where this one got all my rock stuff.

Jeb: You have several guests on the CD.

Gilby: Always.

Jeb: “Alien” has Traci Guns.

Gilby: Tracy has been playing guitar in my solo band for two years. The two tunes he plays on he has been playing live so I thought it would be natural to have him on the record because I really liked what he brought to it.

Jeb: The lyrics are cool on “Alien.”

Gilby: They are funny.

Jeb: Where did they come from?

Gilby: I hate to say it but I am pretty simple and I am pretty much about the same stuff. It’s everyday in my life -- what I think about or what I watch on TV. I am usually pretty current. I am just trying to figure out new ways and more colorful ways to say things. That is what “Alien” is about. It is a more comfortable way to talk about the same old shit!

Jeb: I like the remake of “Diamond Dogs.”

Gilby: That is a great Bowie tune. We have been playing “Diamond Dogs” since I made my first record in ‘94 but we have never got around to cutting it. When we got to the studio we cut it for fun. It was not my choice to put it on the record. My friends were telling me that it came out really good and that I should put it on so that is why I decided to put it on.

Jeb: What do you find people are more surprised about on your solo albums: your songwriting or your vocals?

Gilby: To tell you the truth, I think it is the songwriting that they are most surprised about. Anyone who really knows me and follows what I have done knows that I keep going back and forth between playing guitar and singing. I prefer playing guitar but just out of lack of finding a singer that I really click with I end up singing. A lot of people go, “I knew you played guitar in Guns & Roses -- I didn’t know you could write a song!”

Jeb: Is that the thing that you would hope that they say?

Gilby: I haven’t really thought about that but probably. I would think they would be more surprised about my singing. I have confidence in my voice but I don’t really like it. I just do it and hope that nobody notice it! I know a lot of people who actually like the way I sing but I like the way Rod Stewart sings and the way Steve Marriott sings.

Jeb: What are you doing to support the album?

Gilby: The record does not come out until the end of January. We are just going to take it as it goes. Whether I have an album out or not, I go play live. I do what I call “Weekend Warrior” stuff. I will do a Vegas run or a Jersey run. This will just give me an excuse to go out an play.

Jeb: Using the album as a vehicle is not in your interest. You are just going to go out an play.

Gilby: I am going to play regardless. It is great to have some new songs to play. It gives people a reason to go out and see Gilby in 2002.

Jeb: “Margarita” is a little bit different.

Gilby: I was trying to do a Latin type song without being blatant and putting in maracas. I think that the drum track on that song is really special. The drummer on it is David Raven who is one of the biggest session drummers in LA. He plays in one of the blues bands that I sit in with all the time.

Jeb: “Crocodile Tears” is another good rock song. Once again, I will go back to the lyrics instead of the guitar playing. Everybody know you can play guitar!

Gilby: I hope so by now!

Jeb: I found myself listening to the lyrics on this album more than I expected myself to.

Gilby: I think people are surprised by my songwriting. Nobody wants to just hear a guitar player jerk off. It still has to be a song. I think that is why a lot of people don’t enjoy solo works. They listen to it once and then never again. A lot of time it ends up just people wanking. I only make a record when I feel like I have 12 good songs. I don’t go, “It’s 2002 so I better make a record.” I am more like, “Hey, I have written 12 good songs so lets make a record!” That is how I do it.

Jeb: How many songs do you write before you whittle it down to an albums worth?

Gilby: You are going to hate this but there is ten or eleven originals on this record and I only wrote twelve! I usually start a song -- after all of these years I have sort of figured out how to do it so that I don’t really waste my time. If it is not going anywhere in the starting stage then I just dump it.

Jeb: You don’t collaborate with anyone on Swag.

Gilby: Not on this record. On other records I do and it is usually on the lyrics. It has been few years since I put out a solo album so I had the time to write they lyrics and the music. I really didn’t need the collaboration on this one because I had the time.

Jeb: Most people know you from Guns & Roses. Do you find that you have to work harder to break out of that mold?

Gilby: To tell you the truth, I don’t even really care. I think I was given a gift on having that Guns & Roses fan base. It is up to them whether they like it or not. They buy a lot of records besides Guns & Roses records and they are not all hard rock records. That is my base and hopefully it has expanded. I don’t try to be like Guns & Roses or try to stay in their vein just to keep their fans. Hopefully they come to my side.

Jeb: I would think people would expect something.

Gilby: Spitfire still labeled the album “Former Guns & Roses Guitarist.” They still do things like that.

Jeb: You are still making albums and touring. Why?

Gilby: It is a very simple reason. I still like strapping my Les Paul on, turning an amp on and playing a couple of bar chords. After all this time I still get the same feeling I got when I was 16 years old. I also like people clapping after I do something! My wife says, “You don’t need to tour. You don’t need the money. You just want people to clap for you.” You know I think she is right.

Jeb: I like your picture on the cover. I have always liked your image.

Gilby: It changed a little bit. It got a little dirtier!

Jeb: What guitar players were turning you on when you started playing.

Gilby: Bands like Kiss and Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith were really big. Jimmy Page and Ace Frehley were big, big influences on me. Mick Ronson from David Bowie I loved. As I started getting into music I went backwards and got into the Beatles and the Stones. When I started reading articles about Jimmy Page and Keith Richards they were talking about Chuck Berry. Then I got into BB King. It is weird. I worked my way backwards instead of forwards.

Jeb: This album has very little blues.

Gilby: I just finished an album where the whole thing was in open G and I was playing acoustic slide guitar. I did a little to much on that record.

Jeb: What is it about the blues that grabs a person?

Gilby: For me it is the honest simplicity. It is just the way that you can say so much with such small words. It just moves me. If I am sitting in a club watching a real blues band then after an hour I have really about had it.

Jeb: Is BB King one of your top blues player?

Gilby: Absolutely. I can’t really call Chuck Berry a blues player but he is R&B. I love Chuck Berry. I love Robert Johnson and Elmore James.

Jeb: So you do play acoustic blues as well?

Gilby: All the time. On the Colonel Parker record I play dobro on a lot of songs.

Jeb: You say playing is just fun but you put a lot of work into your fun.

Gilby: Of course. I still like the challenge. I still think of myself as a musician so I want the challenge of having the guys in the room playing. I don’t want to be the guy slacking off! I want to make sure I am playing good. I enjoy getting in the room with the guys and playing and getting off on what we are doing.

Jeb: You are very versatile as you play with a ton people.

Gilby: That is one of the perks of being a solo artist. You don’t have to play with the same four guys. You can go outside the circle and play with a lot of people. That is not to say that I don’t like being in bands. After you have been in bands for years then it is fun to go out and play with other guys.

Jeb: Is it more of a challenge or less or does it just depend who you are playing with?

Gilby: It depends on who you are playing with. We have kind of weeded out the crap. We know who is good. If they are on the album then they are pretty damn good.

Jeb: You are not touring yet?

Gilby: I will go out in January and do some dates. I don’t know about a full tour but I will do some dates.

Jeb: You produced this CD. Was the LA Guns the first CD you produced?

Gilby: There is a band called the Beat Angels. I have done four albums with LA Guns.

Jeb: How is that different than producing your own albums?

Gilby: It is not that different. The cool thing about doing LA Guns is that you are like they extra band member guy. As long as there is a mutual respect then it goes really well. I get to be the guy that goes, “Hey, try this.” Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

Jeb: How do you remain objective with yourself?

Gilby: I surround myself with good players. I don’t go, “The song goes like this so play it like this.” I don’t ever do that. I always ask everyone what they hear. They are really talented musicians and they always come up with great ideas. It really helps bring the songs to life.

Jeb: How did you start playing with Slim Jim of the Stray Cats?

Gilby: We have a gig on Thursday nights at his club called The Cat Club. It has been going on for two years. The band is called The Starfuckers. It is me and Jim and Traci Guns. Sometimes Traci will be out on the road and we will have other people play with us. Yogi from Buckcherry will play with us sometimes. By doing that every Thursday nights -- just having fun and jamming, we got a record deal. We had to change the name from The Starfuckers because they would not let us put that on the record. We changed the name to Coronal Parker. That is the record I was telling you about.

Jeb: It is an all-star band.

Gilby: It is pretty cool. It is just like an old Stones album.

Jeb: What is your take on the state of Rock N Roll?

Gilby: I think it is pretty damn healthy. I am not a big fan of what is popular on the rock scene. I don’t have a problem with it. I think they are being creative and that it is a different sound. It is not something I would do but you have to change sounds or it would get boring. There are some decent bands but there hasn’t been one that has really killed anybody yet. When Guns & Roses came in they just killed everybody and there has not been anything like that for a while.

Jeb: I miss the lead guitar work in the new music.

Gilby: I haven’t heard a solo in a long time.

Jeb: You have an new album and some dates but what do you want to do that you have not done?

Gilby: You are asking a very odd question at this point in my life. I really don’t know. I am really open for suggestion right now. I don’t really know. It is nice to not know what happens next. I am really lucky as things financially have been pretty good so I can afford to take a month or two and fuck off.

Jeb: Any musical experimentations that you have not done that you would like to do?

Gilby: Absolutely! I would love to get in a room with a couple of guys and go at it the way that Zeppelin went at it. It is really hard to take the time to get to where you have four guys on the same creative mindset.

Jeb: I’d love to hear it.

Gilby: Me too!

Jeb: A lot of people ask you about your Guns days but what were you doing before that?

Gilby: I had a band in the early 80’s called Candy. We were a very pop band and we were signed to Mercury. After that I had a band called Kills For Thrills and we were signed to MCA records. I was making records before Guns & Roses but they were not in the same success range as Guns & Roses.

Jeb: What was the California scene like back then?

Gilby: It was amazing. When Kills For Thrills got a record deal -- this was post Guns & Roses as it was 1988. Guns & Roses was already becoming big. I had a four piece rock band. We got a major label deal and we only had seven songs. SEVEN! They were so starved to get another big rock band from California. It actually kind of fucked things up because my band wasn’t really ready yet. We wanted a record deal so we were not going to say no. By the time the record came out we already hated each other. We were fighting about the wrong things. We weren’t fighting about creating music. We were fighting about publishing splits and stuff that doesn’t really count. It was a really strange time in LA. They were just handing out record deals.

Jeb: You have remained friends with Slash?

Gilby: A little bit. I don’t really talk to him much anymore. I see him and say “Hey what’s going on?” but I really don’t sit down and have a drink with him anymore. The last couple of years we have really, really lost touch.

Jeb: How did you get that gig in the first place?

Gilby: When Izzy left the band the word around town was that they were looking for a guitar player. Slash called me one day and said, “We are looking for a guitar player. Do you want to come down?” You know my answer. I went down then next day and learned a couple of tunes and I never left. It was really that simple. They guys new me from the early days before they were in Guns & Roses. I knew Axl. I knew Izzy. I had known Matt a long time too.

Jeb: When did you have enough?

Gilby: Actually, I never really had enough. My leaving was a strange thing. I left and was fired at the same time. I didn’t want to go along with the program. When Axl called me about the direction of the band he wanted to take, I voice my opinion. I said, “I think this is a great hard rock band and I think we should continue that.” He didn’t agree with me. I said, “Look, if it is a hard rock band then I am in but if you are going to have three or four guitar players then I am out.” Then I was out. I kind of made my statement and lived by it.

Jeb: Why did they want four guitar players?

Gilby: That is what he wanted. The new Guns & Roses has three guitar players in the band and Axl plays guitar. That was not something that appealed to me. It is his band. He can do whatever he wants but I didn’t agree with it.

Jeb: Through your career, what has been the biggest challenge?

Gilby: Doing it on my own and getting through the hard times. I am very, very happy with my solo records and I am happy that they get out but they don’t sell great numbers and I am not on the charts or on the radio but I am happy with it. I wish there wasn’t such a game in the industry where it is just about money to get yourself a hit record. I wish that it was really just the matter of getting good music to good people but that is not the way it works.

Jeb: Some people really believe that is all it takes. It would have to be frustrating as an artist.

Gilby: It is very frustrating and that is the hardest part about it. Then again, I would not trade it for sitting on a major label that told me what to do and what to play. I don’t want some 21 year old A&R guy telling me how to do it. He has never stood on a stadium stage.

Jeb: Is that really what it is like?

Gilby: Yes and I am sugar coating it. It is terrible.

Jeb: Freedom is worth it.

Gilby: I am lucky because Guns & Roses was a successful band so I have a little cushion. I might have a different opinion if I was starving.

Jeb: How did you survive all of the madness?

Gilby: It was really, really rough. I loved being in the band. It was a great rock band. The lifestyle was wonderful. We had a great time. It was not that hard to survive come to think of it. When it was over it was kind of shocking. When you are thrust into that world you adapt fast but when you leave it adapting is very, very hard.

Jeb: I am a guitar player and have played in some bands -- nothing like what you have done. It was crazy enough at my little level that I can’t imagine what it would be like at that level?

Gilby: It is a little easier when you have cars and people telling you where to go and they are kissing your ass. It is just about keeping a straight head through all of the phoniness. I think unfortunately people like Slash and Axl have not heard the truth in a long time because people want to be their friends so they are nice to them. They don’t really tell them the way it is. Then when they have to go out and face the world it is a shock to them because now they are hearing reality and they have not heard that for a long time.

Jeb: How did you keep your head together?

Gilby: I never believed it. Even through all of that I knew that I had my Les Paul and my amp and that I was playing on a really nice stage but I knew it was not for real. I never believed it.

https://web.archive.org/web/20030402002409/http://www.classicrockrevisited.com/gilby_clarke_interview.htm
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