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2020.08.25 - Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon - Interview with Gilby and Alan Niven

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2020.08.25 - Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon - Interview with Gilby and Alan Niven Empty 2020.08.25 - Rock Talk with Mitch Lafon - Interview with Gilby and Alan Niven

Post by Blackstar Yesterday at 9:21 am

Excerpts transcribed by UG:

During an episode of Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon, Gilby Clarke looked back on his 1991-1994 tenure in Guns N' Roses and what it was like to replace Izzy Stradlin, while also touching on Velvet Revolver, the band's latest reunion, and more.

The conversation also featured former Guns N' Roses manager Alan Niven.

When the interviewer said, "When was the last time, if ever, that you were in a room - Gilby Clarke and Alan Niven together, both of course, as folks know, coming from the Guns N' Roses family?", Gilby replied (transcribed by UG):

"Well, it's been a few years; right, Alan?"

Alan: "Yeah, quite a few. I think the last time that we actually saw each other, say face-to-face, was at some sort of TV thing, and you came and introduced yourself and we had a chat.

"And as you left I turned around and I said, 'Well, I think they might have actually lucked out in trying to replace Izzy [Stradlin]. He seems like a really cool dude.'"

Gilby: "Oh, thank you, that's a pretty darn good endorsement because I know how close you were to Izzy, and obviously, I've always been very candid about how important I knew Izzy was to the band.

"And for me, it was an impossible task - nobody really can replace him, but I always felt when things change in bands, hopefully, you're taking the band to another step better or worse or whatever.

"But at least it's different and it's going in the right direction. And hopefully, that was my job, and happy to be a part of."

Alan: "The one thing that I think I knew at the moment was that I was talking to a genuine rock 'n' roll soul and spirit, and that was why I said, 'They may have lucked out, they may have got somebody who is a genuine rock 'n' rolling spirit.'

"For me, Izzy was the center of gravity in that band and I felt his approach and his attitude was unimpeachable. And in that respect, it was like, 'Who the hell do you replace Izzy with?' Well, they got lucky, they got you."

I'm gonna second that. As a fan back in the day, when you lose a member, you lose an Ace Frehley or Peter Cris, you go, 'Oh!' And then you go to Guns N' Roses and you lose an Izzy, you go, 'Oh!' But Gilby was great! [1994's] 'Pawnshop Guitars,' as a solo album, showing his writing strength and musical strength, just goes to show that. I don't know if they lucked out, I think they made a wise choice.
Alan: "I'd really love to know how you - especially with long-distance hindsight - how you look back on the 'Illusion' tour? Was it everything that you hoped it would be, was it over the top and ungainly? How did it feel to you?"

Gilby: "Well, obviously, it was a really interesting time in the band. For me, I was 30 years old when I got the gig - when I got the call from Slash to come in.

"And starting with it, it was difficult in a sense it had nothing to do with the success of the band, had nothing to do with what the politics of the band were. For me, when Slash had asked me, I auditioned two or three times only playing one or two songs every time.

"He gave me the gig, like, on a Monday and the next gig was the next Monday in Boston. And I had to learn 50 songs in a week! And we're talking about 1991, not now where I can go and watch a video.

"I was glued to a cassette player with Izzy panned to the left, learning it, and that's all I cared about was learning these songs and not looking like a fucking moron on stage.

"I knew Izzy and I had a similar look - we both were from the Keith Richards and Johnny Thunder school, and there were probably a lot of people that weren't going to know that I wasn't Izzy.

"And so, that was what was on my mind. I was not thinking about politics, I was not thinking about all the other stuff. I did gain the guys' confidence and they all had their roles in the band - obviously, Slash and Axl really ran the band.

"Slash started depending on me for opinions, whether it was checking a mix on a performance that was going out live, or whatever. He would say, 'Hey, listen to this and tell me what you think.'

"Even when we're doing the records and stuff, he asked my opinion on mixes and things like that. And I feel like I earned that confidence and I took it seriously. But to answer your question, Alan - it was awesome!

"I had been through enough bands before GN'R, I had three major-label record deals before I got my Guns N' Roses gig - none of them were successful. When I got that gig - like I said, I had to concentrate on the songs, but it was about enjoying myself.

"This was a gift – this band was successful, every audience was sold out, they knew every word to every song - I was going to enjoy myself and I did!"

Yeah, you absolutely did. Since we're on the Guns N' Roses thing, I do want to ask you real quick - when the guys get together and do Velvet Revolver and they do this reunion tour, you don't get the call! Was that frustrating? Was that like, 'Oh, thank god - because I'm doing something else in my life?' Was it like, 'Hey, hey, what about me? How did you take that?' I mean, in Velvet Revolver, when they didn't have you, I went, 'Hey, where the fuck is Gilby?' How did you take it?

"Well, first of all, when the Velvet Revolver thing happened, I was doing other things. And to be honest, we weren't really in touch during those years and I didn't even know the process of what they were doing when they were doing it.

"From when I heard about the band, they were already a band; Dave [Kushner, guitar] was already solidified in the band, and to be honest, I would never do that to Dave, you know, call Slash and go, 'Hey, man, what about me?'

"I mean, they could have thought of me - whatever their reasons were I don't know, but I honestly didn't think about it and I didn't feel a slight about it in any way possible.

"Now when the [GN'R] reunion came back, that's a different story. Because there was a lot of confusion as to what was going on and I did have some private talks with Slash, which I would never reveal to anybody, but I don't honestly know if they knew really what was happening.

"Alan knows how Guns N' Roses do things, and sometimes they just do things and things happen. And I really felt that that's what the reunion was - it was like, 'Hey, we're going to play Coachella - let's play Coachella and take it from there.'

"I mean, I was disappointed that I wasn't asked..."

Alan: "Gilby, do you know what the bet - what the book was when they were going to do Coachella?"

Gilby: "No, I don't."

Alan: "Amongst the crew - that they wouldn't get both of them done and it would completely implode before it hit Mexico, or definitely implode in Mexico. But that was the betting within the crew."

Gilby: "I would have taken that bet. I mean, I was pretty clear when it was going on, saying, 'I would be more surprised, more than anyone, that Slash and Axl will be on the same stage together.'

"I, honestly, as a betting man, I would have never bet on that. I saw both of them as being very, very far apart in the meeting of minds. But anyway, when it happened, I was surprised just like everybody else.

"And then when I saw what they did - really it was just Slash and Duff [McKagan] joined Axl's band. I understood what they were going in what they were doing, but of course, in the back of my mind, I would have done the gig had they asked me.

"But had they asked me to be the third guitar player... That is what made me have my disagreement with Axl 30 years ago - that Guns n Roses should not be a three-guitar band."

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