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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.


2023.07.11 - Rolling Stone Italy - Interview with Gilby

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2023.07.11 - Rolling Stone Italy - Interview with Gilby Empty 2023.07.11 - Rolling Stone Italy - Interview with Gilby

Post by Blackstar Tue Jul 11, 2023 8:17 pm

Many thanks to @Twinaleblood for translating and sharing this interview with us!

Note by Twinaleblood: The interview was put online on July 11, but it must have taken place on July 7, because Gilby mentions that the following day GNR are playing in Rome.
Rolling Stone Italy
Interview by Michele Bisceglia
“I just found out a few days ago that they are in Italy too.” You know that some fans are hoping for you to make a guest appearance on stage, right? There are comments under your photos on Instagram. “Really? They are in Rome tomorrow, but I will be in Sardinia.”
They are Guns N' Roses and the one speaking is Gilby Clarke, who in GNR - he often calls them that, with the initials - played from 1991 to 1994, replacing longtime guitarist Izzy Stradlin at the height of their success, during the endless Use Your Illusion tour.
It is a very hot Friday afternoon, and we are in the patio of the Legend Club, a venue just outside Milan. Gilby has just landed after a week of vacation in Sardinia with his wife Daniella; they have been sightseeing on motorcycles, his other great passion besides guitars and music.
Sixty-one years old next August 17, after a big concert-event in Romania together with other Godz of Rock, he is playing here tonight; tomorrow he’s taking a plane back to the province of Oristano, where he has another live show scheduled, and on Sunday he’s flying back to Veneto for a concert in Padua, finally boarding at dawn on Monday, going back home to Los Angeles.
Opening today's live show at Legend are Lizi and the Kids, an Italian band produced by Gilby himself. So let's start with Lizi - a sort of homegrown young Joan Jett - and, at some point in the chat, we’ll move on to Izzy.
How did you end up working with a girl from our country, producing Keep Walking, the record by Lizi and the Kids?

Thanks to Alvise (the promoter of the Italian shows). He was the one who suggested I work with her, knowing that I had already produced similar bands ranging between power pop and pop-punk. So I listened to some of her songs online, immediately realizing that she has a good ear, can write well and is very professional. At first it was a little difficult with English language, but that was a good challenge as well. Besides, Lizi is very sweet, and when she came to America she became friends with my daughter right away.
Your daughter Frankie is also a musician in her pop-punk band, Frankie and the Studs. Is she somehow influenced by your music?

I would say she is influenced by me more in how she approaches live performances and relates to the audience than because of the music itself. I occasionally go to see her concerts and she says things on stage that she definitely got from me. But she likes different things, like Paramore or Green Day, more modern punk rock. She’s not too much into things like Guns N' Roses or Metallica.
But do you think an Italian band like Lizi and the Kids could work in America?

Absolutely! She is young, but she is extraordinary. She still has a lot to learn, she has to play a lot live. She will have to pay her dues with good gigs and not so good gigs, but definitely yes, she could work.
What do you think of contemporary pop-punk, do you like it?

Through Lizi and my daughter I've learned about new things, like Machine Gun Kelly: I get it, but it's not my cup of tea. In general, I think music is divided into too many categories now. If you listen to a Queen record, you’ll find country, hard rock, metal, pop… a little bit of everything in it. Whereas now there are many, too many labels: either you do pop, or punk, or metal. I think everyone should be a little more versatile instead.
On your latest album, The Gospel Truth, there is a song called Rock and Roll Is Getting Louder. Is that an acknowledgement of the good health of the genre, also because of so many bands with women on vocals, like Lizi or your daughter Frankie?

True, there are a lot of good rock and roll bands with female vocals, and that song is really about the current state of music, but when I write songs, I don't want them to be too overt, I like people to think about it a little bit while they're listening. Anyway, yes, people used to say that rock and roll was dead, that guitars were dead, but if bands like Metallica, Guns N' Roses or Rolling Stones continue to sell out stadiums, it means that rock and roll is in great shape.

How do you put together the setlist for a concert like tonight's?
I'm here with my solo band (a power trio with Troy Patrick Farrell on drums and EJ Curse on bass, nda), so I choose tunes from my own songbook and then a few covers: Rolling Stones, Thin Lizzy, GNR... and more Rolling Stones (laughs).
Speaking of the Rolling Stones, you are a big fan of theirs. How did you end up playing piano on a cover of Street Fighting Man on the Chesterfield Kings' album Let's Go Get Stoned?

I was in Rochester, their city, for a guitar clinic at House of Guitars, a beautiful vintage guitar store where their guitarist Andy Babiuk worked, and he said to me, "We're recording a Rolling Stones song, we'd love to have you on it because we know you're a fan of theirs, but we've already done all the guitars..." So I said, is there a piano? Let me play the piano!
Have you ever had a chance to meet the Rolling Stones or play with them?

I never played with all of them together, however I have met them and happened to play with some of them, like Ron Wood.
Are you playing any songs from your first band, Candy, tonight?

No, I’m not playing any Candy songs because no one remembers them! It's been a really long time... I prefer to do other songs I like, that I have a stronger connection with, like for example Monkey Chow from Slash's Snakepit’s album, because it's one that I wrote myself. Or things like Knockin' on Heaven's Door or Dead Flowers, which I used to do with Guns. Did you know that a Candy song was also covered by GG Allin?
Of course! Kids in the City transformed by GG Allin into Sluts in the City! Did you like his version?

I wouldn't really say I liked it, let's just say it was fun.
And are you playing any songs from the band you had before you joined Guns N' Roses, Kill for Thrills?

At least one, Motorcycle Cowboys...
Because that's what you are, a cowboy on a motorcycle!

Yes, I just went to Sardinia with my wife, all week on a motorcycle.
Do you remember the first motorbike you had?

A Honda Trail 70, I used to ride it to go to work at a music store. But I got my first real, big Harley in 1989.
How many Harleys do you have now?

Four: a 1941, then a 1965, a 1970, and a newer 2019.
Do you have more bikes than guitars?

Definitely more guitars! Although I've sold about ten, I now have maybe 70.
And do you still have your very first guitar?

No, because my first Les Paul was stolen on stage while I was playing a different one during a concert. That was in the early 1980s, long before Candy. But the black Les Paul you see in the GNR videos is the same one I was playing in Candy.
Did you keep many guitars from your time with Guns N' Roses?

I've sold a few, but I have almost all of them.
How do you choose which Guns songs to play live? That's probably what all the fans want to hear....

It's very simple: Axl has an incredible, unique voice, he's much much better than me (laughs). I can only do the ones I can sing, certainly not Sweet Child O' Mine. I do It's So Easy, sometimes Patience, we happened to do Civil War... But I certainly can't sing big hits like Welcome to the Jungle. If the fans insistently ask for Sweet Child o' Mine, maybe we have can have the audience sing it because the pitch is really too high for me.
What do you remember about your concerts in Italy with Guns?

I remember very well the t-shirts that Versace had made for us for that tour. They were cool but, unfortunately, I don't have them anymore. And then I also remember going to the stadium and seeing the counterfeit merchandise that looked better than the official one! I kept asking: how is that possible? And they would say: shut up (laughs).
Do you keep in touch with fellow GNR members Slash and Duff?

Yes and no. We message every now and then, like wishing each other a happy birthday or things like that...
A question about Guns N' Roses extravaganzas. In his autobiography, Matt Sorum mentions a deal supposedly gone down between you and Duff: you traded a t-shirt of yours, that he really liked, for his car. Is that true?

Of course (laughs)!
What kind of shirt was it?

It was a black mesh t-shirt that I wore during my early days in the band, Duff really liked it and often borrowed it... One day I asked for it back and he said: why don't we trade? We had gone to rehearsals together in my car, which was a '65 Mustang. Many people would see it as a classic car, in his eyes it was just old and beat-up. So, someone hanging out with us said, "You might as well ask for a car" I asked, and he gave me his Corvette!
Do you still have it?

No, I sold it. But that was in 1993 or '94....
What was the best moment you had with Guns N' Roses?

There were many wonderful moments, but maybe the best for me was when we played for the first time in Argentina. The audience was really crazy, at the time there seemed to be a Beatlemania vibe for us, it was kind of like we were Elvis. All the concerts were amazing, but the ones in Argentina were really the craziest.
And the lowest moment?

Just as there were a lot of really high highs, there were also a lot of really low lows. Maybe coming home after that tour was the worst moment. We were all tired, it had been a very long tour, but nobody wanted to stop because we knew that once the tour was over, it would all be over really. And it did, at least for a while.
You replaced Izzy Stradlin, who’s become a sort of ghost since leaving GNR. Do you keep any kind of contact with him? Do you have any idea of what he does or where he is?

I honestly have no idea where he is, I haven't heard from him in I don't even know how long. Keep in mind that Izzy was my friend before I joined the band, he was my favorite member of Guns N' Roses, the one I identified with, as we had so much in common. When he released his first solo record I bought it right away, partly because I really liked the guitarist who played with him, Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites.
Do you still listen to things like the Georgia Satellites?

Yes, I was listening to them the other day on my motorcycle going around Sardinia, I especially like their second album!
Here we take a break, Gilby takes off his sunglasses, pulls out his phone and puts on two Georgia Satellites tunes, Battleship Chains from the first record and the first track from their second album, Open All Night. He is relaxed, not showing his age at all, and seems to be really at peace with himself.
He loves talking about music, he lights up remembering every single step of his career: from his beginnings with the aforementioned Candy, a power pop group that later became a micro-cult band in Japan, to Kill for Thrills, a classic rock and roll band from1980s Los Angeles. When his adventure with Guns N' Roses ended, Gilby was the first to get the axe before the group imploded, but like everyone else he went on with his solo career, collaborating with his former bandmates and other rock stars, or producing misunderstood but very valid punk bands like the Beat Angels or hardcore acts like the Bronx.
Speaking of legendary rock bands, you played with Tommy Lee in the past and Nikki Sixx is a guest on your latest album...

Yes! With Tommy I was part of Rock Star Supernova, a band that was formed for a reality show. Jason Newsted from Metallica was also a member. And I'm really good friends with Nikki.
What do you think about the current Mötley Crüe tour without Mick Mars then?

I think it was inevitable, if they wanted to keep touring. Mick is a magical guitarist, and Mötley Crüe sounded like Mötley Crüe because of him, but he was no longer in top form, you could tell he was weak. And now they have John 5, who is a younger, phenomenal guitarist. It works well that way.
Since you know both of them, who is the craziest between Tommy and Nikki?

Definitely Tommy (laughs). Everyone has mellowed down now, but back in the day there was no one on Tommy's level.
Going back to your extensive discography, what is the album you are most proud of?

The first one, Pawnshop Guitars, which I had started to work on long before I joined GNR. I even pitched to them some of my songs that ended up on that record: “Guys, why don't we try them out?” Slash liked them so much that he even ended up playing on my first record. But Axl said no!
What songs did he turn down?

For example, Tijuana Jail.
It is one of your coolest songs. Given the title, have you ever been arrested?

That song is not just about me. I was inspired by another person I knew, it's a mix of different stories.
But have you ever been in jail?

Maybe just one night, for something I had done on a motorcycle.
You played on the whole The Spaghetti Incident album, did you like those songs?

Yes, I played all the rhythm guitars on the record, but I already knew most of the tunes. Maybe I was unfamiliar just with a couple of them.
Have you seen that during this tour they are playing Down on the Farm by UK Subs?

Yes, and I used to play that song with my band too! It’s cool that they are playing it, it's a great song.
And what did you think about Look at Your Game, Girl, the Charles Manson tune that ended up on Spaghetti?

I didn't know anything about it until it was all done. I didn't agree with it, but sometimes when you're in a band you don't have much choice.
Aside from your solo career, you were also part of Kings of Chaos, the supergroup founded by another former Guns N' Roses, Matt Sorum. Do you still play together?

Yes, we are doing a big concert in Brazil in September. It's mainly Matt's project, I've done a lot of shows with them but not all of them. When I'm not there, sometimes Billy Duffy from the Cult is playing, sometimes Steve Stevens....
Seeing you here and knowing your history, you don't exactly look like a “king of chaos”. You've been with your wife for over 30 years, how did you make your marriage work while on the road with Guns?

That's a question I get asked a lot, how did I manage life with the Guns. I don't know! I used to drink all the time, I was rarely sober, but I'm also one of those people who knows when to quit. Sometimes it might seem uncool to say “enough”, however, I was able to do it.
Besides alcohol, what was your relationship with drugs?

I'd rather not talk about it (laughs)!
Is there any chance to you on stage with Guns N' Roses again?

Everything is fine between us, there is certainly no bad blood. And the last time they asked me to join them onstage one night I declined the invitation only because I really couldn't, I had other plans, I've already told the story (referring to a guest appearance at a Guns n' Roses show in 2016, which he declined to attend his daughter’s debut at Lollapalooza).
Do you have any regrets?

Definitely. Life isn't perfect, sometimes you think you're doing the right thing, that you’re working with the right manager, with the right record label, only to find out that's not the case at all. We all make bad decisions, that’s what happens.
What would you like to do in the near future?

I hope to retire soon (laughs). I don't know, but I would like to make another record as soon as possible. I had fun recording The Gospel Truth so I'm looking forward to releasing another album.
After so many years you still have fun playing around, don't you?

Yes, I always have fun, I can assure you that tonight I'm not here for the money.

Original source in Italian:

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