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Welcome to Appetite for Discussion -- a Guns N' Roses fan forum!

Please feel free to look around the forum as a guest, I hope you will find something of interest. If you want to join the discussions or contribute in other ways then you need to become a member. We especially welcome anyone who wants to share documents for our archive or would be interested in translating or transcribing articles and interviews.

Registering is free and easy.


2011.10.08 - MetalShrine - Interview with Gilby

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2011.10.08 - MetalShrine - Interview with Gilby Empty 2011.10.08 - MetalShrine - Interview with Gilby

Post by Blackstar Fri Dec 03, 2021 12:23 am

Interview with Gilby Clarke!

How has the shows been?

Gilby Clarke: Well, it´s only been two but both of them have been really good. Nice turn outs and the band played well.

What's it like touring in Sweden? All these small places.

GC: It's fun! Over the last four or five years I've been doing smaller clubs and stuff. It´s fun! You can look at it in a lot of different ways and I tend to try to make it the best I can.

Is it different doing these clubs in the States?

GC: No, it's about the same. I mean, the only thing that's different when I think about the States is that the gear is better. Equipment and stuff, it's a little bit more modern, but it's the same thing and the same crowd, you know! People that come to small clubs, same people go to big concerts.

What kind of set are you playing?

GC: I play a little bit of everything. I've made four or five solo records and I play some of that. I play some GN'R and I play some Stones and songs I did with Slash and Snakepit. I do a Supernova tune, so it's a little bit of everything that I've been involved with. Anything I can sing! (laughs) Anything I can play on guitar.

You grew up in Cleveland and moved on when you were like 17, to LA?

GB: Yeah, I was 17! You know that?

I did my homework!

GC: (laughs) Actually I think I was 15 when I moved to LA, but 17 when I first got in a band. When I moved to California it was high school basically and it was my way of adapting and I started a band and started playing at school dances and then I moved to Hollywood. (laughs)

In Cleveland, did you ever come across Eric Singer or Derrick Green?

GC: No, I didn't! As a matter of fact, I didn't meet Eric Singer… well, I met Eric Singer in the late 80's and I only casually met him. I didn't get to know him until the mid 90's and what we didn't realize when we met each other was that we actually lived four blocks away from each other. I was 208 and he was 216. Same block, just four blocks away. We were different age groups. I'm a little bit younger than him, so we kind of missed each other. We went to the same school too.

Cool! Is Cleveland a music town?

GC: Yes, I'd say it is, in a sense that there is a lot of music and people are very passionate about music. Everybody goes to every concert, even in the suburbs to the main town, people are into music. I think with me, it was more of my escape. It wasn't like a rosy childhood, I mean we were troublemakers and for me it was just a way of not being a bad kid.

When you came to LA and getting into the whole music scene there, were you in a lot of different bands before you ended up in Candy?

GC: No, I wasn't actually! I really haven't been in a lot of bands. My first real band was Candy. I mean, I had like a high school band that I played in, but my first Hollywood band was Candy, so the first band I was in, we got a record deal. It wasn't successful, but we at least got to make records and things like that.

And this was in the early 80's?

GC: Yeah, this is very early 80's. When Candy was going through some changes, or mainly the scene was changing you know. It was becoming much darker and harder which for me was what I liked anyway. Candy was a good band, but it wasn't exactly what I was looking for. I wanted something harder and I formed my band Kill For Thrills and it was out of the affect that I wanted things darker and harder. I actually play some Kill For Thrills songs in my set.

Being part of that scene and LA being kind of a Mecca back in the 80's, were you out putting up flyers and stuff like that?

GC: Oh yeah, absolutely! You had to and everybody did. I wouldn't say that there was a lot of competition between bands, but there was competition like to get the audience. Even though the metal scene dominated, it wasn't all there was. There was punk rock and there was also like an underground scene and that's where bands like Jane's Addiction came out of, the dark underground scene. And my band was stuck between the metal and the underground scene. We played with Jane's Addiction, but we would also play with the hard rock bands too, so we were kind of like on both fences.

Was it more fun back then?

GC: I don't know if it was more fun as much as, you know, that was just our youth, so I think we look back and think “Oh, that was great!”. It was hard, but it was fun because that's the way we grew up.

Before you joined Guns N' Roses for that tour, what were you up to right before that? Was it Kill For Thrills?

GC: Yeah, it was! I was just finishing up… We did two records and a bunch of touring and once again we were kind of like right on the fence and just about to break and I got a call from him, so I had to quit my job. (laughs)

How did you end up getting that call? Did you know any of those guys before that?

GC: Yeah, I knew all of them! The Hollywood scene was very closed knit and we all went to each other’s gigs and when I was in Candy, is when I knew the Guns guys. I knew Axl when he first came to town and Izzy was one of my first friends in LA and it was just because there was a small group of guys that liked both sides, liked the rock stuff and liked the punk stuff and we would go to both shows and that's the way Izzy was. I'd run into him at a Germs concert and I'd also run into him at The Plastmatics. It was just a way of us having a lot of things in common. Slash was more like a metal guy. We always saw him backstage and he'd be back there drinking and trying to grab your guitar and it was like “Go get your own guitar!”. (laughs) We were all part of the local scene, so yeah, I did know all of them. Even Matt! I knew Matt really well too.

There was this guy, Chris Weber, who was in Hollywood Rose and I talked to him a few years back…

GC: Yeah, I remember him!

Well, he had a brain tumor. Is he still alive?

GC: I don´t know! I met him way back when, so I don't know him.

Ok. Coming from Kill For Thrills and the you do this huge tour that goes on for three years, when it's on that level and the craziness that goes with it, is it like you're in a world of its own and everything else stops existing and laws and rules don't apply anymore?

GC: I gotta tell you, that's true! And I'll tell you for a lot of reasons. One of the main reasons is, when you´re on a tour, you are in your own world. I mean, you're with the same 20 people for 2½ years every single day. Hotels, eating together, going out together and time kind of stops, because we're doing the same thing every day. We're traveling, checking into hotels, playing a show, travel, checking into hotels, playing a show, but the rest of the world around you is going on and going about their business. Work, having children, so when you come back into town… usually you'd play for two or three months and then come back for two weeks and take a break. Everything changes around you, but you don't because time is standing still and also within that world, there are no rules, because that's all we do. Our job is to play those three hours every night and that's it! Get there, play the show, so you have a lot of freedom and you definitely take advantage of having no rules. So I agree. What you said is actually true.

Did you ever feel like, during those three years, that there were times when it got out of hand?

GC: Well, it always got out of hand! (laughs) But also, my experience is different from if you would ask Slash, Duff or Axl because remember, I was also in two bands that weren't successful, so when I got that call I said to myself “I'm going to enjoy this, because I know this isn't easy. This is hard.” And when you have the success it's supposed to be fun. I have a different experience than they do. For them it was the first band. They think it happens to everybody. (laughs) That it's easy. It's not easy! So I definitely enjoyed it differently.

Just wondering, were you on a salary back then?

GC: Yes and no! I was a band member, but I also got paid weekly but there are also perks and other things with it. But everybody was, they all took a salary.

I read about these theme parties…

GC: Oh yeah yeah… (laughs)

Was that every single night or…?

GC: Well, it was only on the Metallica tour I think we did them. I have to tell you, I didn't even go to a lot of them! (laughs) I remember some of them. There was like the Roman bath party and I remember in New Orleans where we had the voodoo party which was really cool. That was fun! Texas was a stripper party with stripper poles and all that. I mean, they were fun.

Were those parties at the arena or at the hotel?

GC: At the arena, always at the arena! That was their job. They actually had people that went on the road and did that, you know. You gotta have fun!

Definitely! What's your take on Axl Rose and the band Guns N' Roses today?

GC: As it stands? Well, knowing Axl and knowing Axl 20 years ago and knowing what he wanted to do, I would assume that he's a happy guy. This is, what he explained to me, what he wanted the band to be. When we had our, what I call a disagreement, he wanted to take the band in a new direction. He wanted to bring in lots of people and this is what he envisioned. I assume he is happy. Is it the kind of music that I enjoy? Some of it, some of it! I think it's creative and I think it's what music is supposed to be. It's supposed to be original and creative and I think it is all those things. It's just to me, when I think of Guns N' Roses, it doesn't sound like Guns N´Roses to me! But as I say, if this was an Axl Rose album, it'd be fantastic, because it's good music! It is! I can't say it's not good music.

You kind of get the feeling that LA and Hollywood is quite small in a way. Do you run into each other?

GC: No, never! You would think it is, but it isn't a small place! There's also a lot of scenes within scenes. Even in our period when things were simpler, there was a hard rock scene, there was an underground scene, there was a punk rock scene, there was a country scene, so no you don't! I mean, I run into Matt all the time going out, but I don't ever run into Axl. (laughs) I wouldn't even know if he was in the same town!

You've done a lot of producing as well. How come you ended up producing The Bronx?

GC: (laughs) Once again, I like a lot of music!

Are they still around?

GC: Oh yeah yeah! As a matter of fact they have a new record coming out, but they also have another band called Mariachi el Bronx and they started a mariachi band and it's traditional mariachi but it's kind of punk rock. You should look it up! When they told me about it I thought it was silly and then I went to see them and I went “Oh, it's really good!”. They wear the outfits and everything. When I got approached about that… it always comes down to the music and I thought they were really good. I heard something… they reminded me of X and when they first came out. It was very LA sounding and sounding like people living in LA and that's what The Bronx sounded like to me.

What's the name of the X song, “Johnny hit and run Paulene” or something like that?

GC: Oh wait, I remember that one! No, “Hit and run! Yeah, “Hit and run”! (It actually is “Johnny hit and run Paulene”. Song from their first album “Los Angeles”. Editor's note)

Such a cool song!

GC: “Hit and run” is great!

And then you did Nancy Sinatra. Did she tell you any funny Frank stories?

GC: That's all she told! (laughs) She also tells Elvis stories. Every time I do a different gig, there are always reasons behind it. With Nancy, I've always been a terrible music reader. I know my notes, but I never have to read. Nancy is a reading gig. They throw a chart in front of you and “Go!”. Like if we're playing tonight, she throws a chart in front of you and you have to go. That was my way of sharpening up on my skills plus I liked her band. It was a mixture of the original Nancy Sinatra band with newer guys and for me, I had to learn a lot of different things. As a musician you need to be a little bit more well rounded and I pride myself on trying to be versatile and not just being stuck in one thing. I wanna be able to play with a country artist and a rock artist and a pop artist and I wanna be able to do it all! Whether I do it is another thing, but I wanna be able to and that's what Nancy was. It really taught me a lot and I learned a lot from the original guys, the Wrecking crew guys who were just phenomenal! And she is badass! Nancy is so on top of the music scene. She'll bring up bands that I never heard of before. She's on the cutting edge and she'll go “So and so is doing this!” and I'm like “I didn't know that!”. She's got a twitter account. She's sharp and she knows what's going on. When I had my motorcycle accident, one of the first phone calls was Nancy. She called me every single day checking up on me. A sweetheart!

Cool! Have you fully recovered from that?

GC: Ah, no!

It was pretty bad, right?

GC: I broke both my legs and had a lot of damage. I still limp a little and I've got hard ware still stuck in my leg.

Do you get a different view of life after a thing like that?

GC: No, no! I mean, I got right back on my bike. I think… let me think about that! No! I think I'm a little bit more careful, but I was careful before. I didn't do anything, somebody hit me. No, I don't think so!

This other band you've worked with, Hotel Diablo?

GC: Oh yeah, that'´s going on right now! They're a couple of guys from some LA local bands. One's in Quiet Riot, a couple of guys from WASP and from Lady Jack. It's just a new young band with young fresh music and I've been working with them trying to make a whole record, so we're getting there.

What's it like making records these days? I read about Tommy Lee who said that there's no point in making records anymore, because everybody just wants one song.

GC: True! Well, I agree with him in that sense. I do agree with why make a record? Like why make 10 or 12 songs? It's kind of going back to like in the 60's where people just made singles and look, is that a good or bad thing? I don't know! It's easier! I think making music is a lot easier than it ever has been and I think that you see a wide variety. I think you see some real creative music and I think you see some real narrow shitty not creative music. All of these things that are available to us are tools. These are tools that The Beatles would've used if they had them, The Rolling Stones and Elvis. It's just a matter of using a tool, but you still have to be creative and write a song.

These days, do you see yourself as 50% producer, 50% musician?

GC: That's exactly how I see myself! That's what I do. I'm either producing or… I see myself as a guitarist. Even though I sing in my band, I'm a guitar player first. I would rather play guitar!

A new album from you then?

GC: (laughs) Well, I've got about six songs done. I always say that when I have ten good songs I'll make a record. It's just not there yet and I don't want to put out something that's shitty.

When you put it out, are you gonna get a record deal or do it yourself?

GC: I always do a record label. That's not my gig! My gig is write the songs, record the songs, perform the songs. It ain't my job to sell the songs!

Are there any other musicians you'd like to work with?

GC: I think there's a lot of musicians. At the top of my head I can't really think of someone, but production wise, I'd produce Muse, I'd produce Mötley Crüe! I like people that are inspired by good music and like to be creative. What I hate is unoriginality. I like things that are new and exciting. Even if that is a hard rock song that's two four, as long as it's creative and new I like it!

Ever thought of moving to Nashville because I've talked to a lot of LA people and Nashville is apparently the new thing?

GC: It is! They're actually right, it is! Nashville is a great place to be, but for me, I have a family, a wife and daughter and my daughter goes to school and I don't know… I also hate the cold! (laughs)

Alright Gilby, thank you!

GC: Alright, cool!


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