Gilby Clarke - March 11th 2002 (7.00 pm - 7.40 pm)
I've never been conferenced in for an Interview before so that was something new. Anyway, the phone goes and it turns out to be a member of the Record Company - after a wait of about 60 seconds Gilby says to me,
Gilby: Hey Glenn, How you goin' ?
Of which I answer, 'Fine Mate' and before we know it, away we go with the interview.
Glenn: I really like the new album; 'Swag' and I've been playing it for the past few days. I'm impressed.
Gilby: Good. It's Rock !! I never know how they are gonna turn out when I've thought 'em. It's like I had a bunch of songs and we just start recording 'em and when you get to ten to twelve songs, you look at 'em and say, 'what have I got here?' It's pretty cool and this stuff is more of a Rock album and I think it's pretty good.
Glenn: Excellent. Why did you call the album 'Swag'?
Gilby: You know what, the title means absolutely nothing. Swag is just a slang term that we use. When I was coming, my other band was trying to come up with a title for a band name. Somebody had suggested 'Swag' and I go, 'That's a great album title'. It was a catchy title and I thought right!
Gilby: Yeh. The main reason was - I had made quite a few records for SPV and I was kinda disappointed because every record I got offered a European Tour and they would never help me. They would never support me. Some of 'em were really good tours - one was Whitesnake and one was Brian May. They wouldn't support it. So after the first time I was like 'Oh wow', then the second time it sucked and the third time it was just stupid.
Glenn: So it was like, 'Oh Gilby's here, I wish I'd have known, I'd have gone.
Gilby: It was very disappointing. I worked so hard - you know when you do - it's hard enough to get tour dates and then not be able to do 'em !!
Glenn: Yeah - it's not good. I heard you were gonna be playing The Boardwalk in Sheffield either last year or the year before and it got cancelled - so now it explains why.
Gilby: Yeah - all that stuff is out of the musicians' hands. You know all I can do is say 'Call me' - they say 'We've offered some dates', and I go 'What are they?, and I go 'What's the money like, to get the band together? And then it's 'Yeah - sounds good' and then the next thing you know it falls apart. It really never has been anything to do with you or anything but you're the one who takes the fall for it. It's very like that and that's the sh*t that really p*sses me off.
Gilby: Well my favourite songs change all the time. I'm really when I go and make a record - I make a record for myself. It's like I just wanna record a record that I would wanna buy and on this record right now I like 'Under the Gun' - it's just that 4 minute song what I do with the drive - you know I try to take something lyrically. I like that one right know.
Gilby: Well, producing my records it's kind of a fake thing actually. What I really do is - it's my studio and I write some songs and I get the guys in - whoever's gonna play on 'em an' stuff. I say, look, here's what I'm gonna play on the thing and I let them do their thing - so it's, we all know how to play 'Rock 'n' Roll' and we really don't need to be produced. We know how to do our thing and we can all tell if we are playing good or playing bad, so it's not really a lot of producing - it's not down to producing - it's basically just organising it. I call Eric (Singer), I go, 'Eric, can you play drums from Monday till Wednesday, can you play bass - I mean, it's really that simple.
Glenn: And you've all been mates a long time as well.
Gilby: It's that - yeah exactly, but when I produce other artists the cool thing is, is being an artist too and I can lend a technical hand because I understand the technical aspects and I can also be the extra band member and that's what a Producer should be, recording someone and bringing something to the party that's not already there.
Glenn: I guess you helped Alex 'Skunk' Michael (of Glam Super-Group project, 'Shameless') out quite a bit and Stevie Rachelle for their albums.
Gilby: Yeah, and the LA Guns, Ball-Beatings and along with the people that come along with my forte.
Gilby: Well it just came up - I heard that these tours that have come over have done pretty well. LA Guns had done it. Faster Pussycat have and you know, you get reports. It's hard when you are at a club level because the budgets are very, very tight. All the guys in my band - they've all done big tours and club tours. They are pretty adaptable. But you know - the dates came up and some of the guys have done the ones that sound pretty good. It's real easy man- we are a three piece - you know it's a Marshall, a Bass Amp and a drum section. We can play anywhere - as long as there's an audience we are pretty fine.
Glenn: Yeah, I mean I interviewed Taime Down from Faster Pussycat and Steve Summers from 'Pretty Boy Floyd' at Rock City and we had a really good night.
Gilby: Yeah - like I said 'I got a good report'. It's a very small community here in Hollywood. We all know each other and we all play together. So when the guys say it's OK - then we thought, 'we'll take a shot at it'.
Glenn: Yeah, from what Taime was saying, I get the impression it's like a big happy family.
Gilby: Yeah, I think that's great. I think it's cool to have that - it's not that we have peers - we all tend to rely on each other a lot more than we used to.
Glenn: It's like there's no competition as such - it's like 'let's help each other out'.
Gilby: I mean everybody goes on stage and be the best that they can - I mean, we'd all like to be better than the other band - but you have to keep that kind of advantage.
Gilby: No, when I did that song - it was like one of those songs that I'd had around for a long time. It's just, you know, when I'm writing a song it's like I'm not thinking about anything else. It's like I'm doing a groove and trying to come up with a melody and I had that song for a long time and every time that I've played it at sound-check - the guys think it sounds really cool. I finished it - you know (it's) a 4 minute pop song - it ain't what she pr*cked in it.
Gilby: Absolutely. When I did my first solo tour we were playing 'Diamond Dogs' almost every night and when I went in to make my second record we did so much it wasn't fresh enough - then when it came to making this record Eric Singer suggested, 'Why don't we record 'Diamond Dogs, we should cut that one. So we cut it and it ended up sounding like one of my songs.
Glenn: Has Bowie had a chance to hear it?
Gilby: I wonder. It could get me a guitar job (laughing).
Glenn: It's a great take - in fact, I've not actually heard the original version of it - it was the first time I'd heard it and I liked it.
Glenn: Was that a similar situation when you did 'Mercedes Benz' on the 'Rubber' album?
Gilby: Yeah - the 'Rubber' album was at a strange period. It's like, it was just kind of I was at that point where, 'What do you do next?', you know I never aspired to be a solo artist - you know I was 'G 'n' R' when I made my first record. Then in the event that the next record came -that's when it was like there's was like no other band to tour with and there was like nothing to do. I was like well you know - I have ten songs - let's just record them and make 'em and that's kind of been my approach. It's like I'm very happy with them but I think that during the 'Rubber' period it was very confusing. You know - the songs are cool but I think I'm just missing a little bit of guts. You know - the songs are cool but I think I'm just missing a little bit of guts. You know, and I think this record (Swag) has got a lot of guts. It came very, very natural.
Glenn: It does yeah - it has a similar vibe to the '99 Live' album that you produced - it really comes at you and stands out really well in that respect.
Gilby: Yeah. I didn't do anything with that record. (laughing)
Gilby: This record actually took a long time. It was just because I was in-between a lot of projects and when I make my records I'm not really un-signed and free. They're done when they're done. So it took like about a year - it's really like if we put it all together like it would take around three weeks. It's just that we would work on a track for a couple of days and I wouldn't touch it for like two weeks. So it took a long time just because I had other things happening at that time. But it also was cool because it gave me the chance to like reflect (on the songs).
Glenn: yeah, I guess it becomes a blur because you're working on it all the time so you can't see what's good about it, I suppose?
Gilby: Yeah. You have to stand back.
Glenn: Were you doing quite a lot of producing in that year in between the album coming out?
Gilby: Yeah. I've been doing a lot of Producing - I've done 3 L.A. Guns records, two Beat Angels records, a Ball album and I worked on quite a few Cleopatra albums (Glam/Sleaze Record Company). They've been coming in and out of my head - so I've been working a lot. Now, I've got Alice Cooper's stuff on the books I presume.
Glenn: Excellent. That's Good.
Gilby: So a lot of really cool stuff has been going on.
Glenn: I'll look forward to that one. Where else will you be playing on the tour?
Gilby: It's UK dates for Europe right now and that's just kind of like to try something out and see how it goes. We're hoping to add some German dates during the summer but I got a lot of States dates - we just got a load of those - and now we're going back to those after we've played the UK.
Glenn: Who would you say you're favourite artists are? Is that a very hard question to ask?
Gilby: Yeah, because it never changes (laughing). I have to say The Beatles are my favourite and then the Stones after that, Bowie, T-Rex - it's like it's really stalled with these band - I've not changed.
Gilby: I mean realistically I don't care. They don't ask me nor do I tell them that they can't put that on there. Honestly, I don't really care. I mean, I'm proud of what I did with G 'n' R - I'm very happy - you know (it's) so dear (to me). I think it's shows you over-shadow where you came from - those things are always gonna happen. It's just the way it is. It's like they think it's gonna help it sell - I don't think it matters really. I think after this many records people pretty much know what I do. Obviously, Guns 'n' Roses' fan-base is much greater to what I do but that's just a part of it. You know those are small boards and it's one of the battles I have no problems with.
Glenn: That's it and if it sells records - what the hell !!
Gilby: But it doesn't sell records- that's the stupid thing.
Gilby: G'n'R have a very, very loyal following - those people know when I'm gonna have records out. They don't have to have this on (the cd case).
Glenn: That's it. When I see an album by Gilby Clarke - I'll just buy it. I don't look for a label.
Gilby: You know, I'm very comfortable with what I do. You know, like I said I have no problem with this history and we all have a history - that's Ok - they do what they do. I really don't care.
Glenn: What would you say your favourite moments are with Guns 'n' Roses?
Gilby: Well actually the tour was great. There was some parts about it I didn't like - parts that I didn't really understand, but you know, every time I strapped on a Les Paul and got to play in front of great, great fans, that was a great day. I mean, when we first came over to Wembley. The first time I ever came to the UK was when we did the Freddie Mercury Concert. I mean that was amazing - I was in awe. I felt like one of the people in the audience that was standing there spectating. I mean those days have always been amazing - I mean - those are the highlights. I never thought I'd be that close to people watching. So I mean there's a lot of highlights - every time I put on a Les Paul and play those songs - such great songs, great band it was good. But when it got sh*tty, it sucked - but at times is was great.
Glenn: Yeah - I remember when you played the Maine Road Stadium at Manchester on the 1992 Tour, I was really impressed. It was a great gig.
Gilby: Yeah, I loved it. It was incredible and I had never been to these places so I mean I wasn't spoiled. You know - I was just taking everything in. It was incredible, I mean. I knew when I joined that band that it was gonna be an experience. I wasn't taking it lightly - I was enjoying every moment.
Gilby: That's a hard one because it'd probably take 3 hours - that's my true answer. I always got along with him great. I never once got into an argument with him or got in some shouting match. I respected him and he respected me. When we had that sort of relationship - we didn't have a problem. When I was leaving the band, I disagreed with him - I'll disagree with him until this day and we still talk about it and I said I disagree with what you are doing - but you know what - it's his prerogative to do what he wants to do with his band.
I'm disappointed in what's happened.
Glenn: Too right - I think everybody is.
Gilby: I thought this through and it's like look, 'the original band was a great, great band. I thought with Matt (Sorum) and myself getting along, we really still were helping the band be a great band. I think that it's cool for him to want to experiment trying new things because that's what being a musician is about but I think that they could have done it different - let everybody have a chance. I never got a chance to sit down and write with those guys ever. You know the stuff that we did do that ended up being on the first (Slash's) Snakepit record was like after it was falling. So you know - I have some disappointments about it - I just disagreed with him. But the tour - when you saw us when we played live, I was probably the one who talked to him more on stage than anybody else. You know, because I respected him and he respected me.
Glenn: Yeah - it's the best way to be.
Gilby: And I haven't got a problem.
Gilby: There's a lot of things I mean, my wife and I talk about it all the time because, you know financially things are pretty good. I don't really make any money going doing these club tours. The money that I make I hand over to my band. The thing is I still feel like I'm 19 years old when I put on my Les Paul and plug in my Marshall. You know, I still love it and of course, I like when people clap after I do something (laughing) and it's really that simple - you play a song and people clap, like, I like that feeling.
Gilby: Well that's a hard one because we've been doing a lot of dates. Pretty much what we don't play is, I don't think we're playing anything from 'Rubber'. We're playing a bunch of stuff from the 'Porn Shop' record, we'll play some stuff from the 'Hangover' record and obviously some new stuff. For a while there we were playing like 'Funky Child' from Snakepit and 'Motorcycle Cowboys' from Kill Me Drugs but we really haven't played much of that lately. For G'n'r, I'll sneak in a riff every now and then and possibly we'll sometimes play '(Knockin' On) Heaven's Door.
Glenn: Yeah - I suppose the crowd go mad when you play anything related to Guns 'n' Roses.
Gilby: Yeah, it's hard because I know my audience came from Gun 'n' Roses but it's kind of a joke for me to get up there and sing 'Welcome to the Jungle' - it's just not right but it's ok to play 'Heaven's Door' - I mean I played on the single, I mean I can sing that live but I can't sing that other stuff.
Gilby: We'll, I'll tell ya - there aren't that many. I pretty much give my statement for like everybody else. You know some of the bands, I don't really like what's new rock today. It's just a little angry and a little too aggressive for me. There's bands like Sum 41 that I thought was pretty cool - you know, they have a sense of humour. I thought 'The Strokes' were pretty cool, but then I don't know there hasn't really been that many things, you know, I still go (and) buy Lenny Kravitz's new record or Sheryl Crow's new album.
Glenn: Yeah - at the end of the day, you like what you like and you don't go on one of these trends.
Gilby: But I also put on to new ideas but just, you know, maybe it's just me - you know nothing has really killed me emotionally. You know like when you put on like (The Rolling Stones) 'Exile on Main Street' that's a very emotional album. It's dirty and sloppy but it's the real - I mean nothing sounds like that.
Glenn: Like the one where Keith (Richards) is playing the actual demo down the phone and that's how they recorded it. It's incredible.
Gilby: Exactly. You know what I'm sayin' - that's the sh*t, it's so real man. I'm just waitin' for somethin' like that.
Glenn: Who would you say your favourite artists are that you've managed to get support slots with?
Gilby: That I've played with?
Gilby: I did a few dates with Aerosmith and that was really cool. I learned a lot from them. When I was young kid I thought, 'I don't wanna be over 40 and be playin' Rock 'n' Roll - Rock 'n' Roll's not for old people.' It was all due respect working with them because they're doing it and they're doing it right. They both play and they still enjoy what they are doing and that just blows me away. You know, and I've learned a lot from that, that, you know, that age is in your mind. They really look great and that's something to aspire to - I would you to aspire to do that.
Glenn: I know they've really not aged some of these guys.
Gilby: I really look up to them and I really respect that. And you know there's peoples bands that, that I don't actually like their music that much that I respect like U2. You know, I think it's incredible what they're doing and like I said, I don't really buy U2 records but their music's OK but I really, really respect the way that they do and how they have stuck together with the same four guys - you know that's amazing.
Glenn: Yeah, it's unheard of these days isn't it - there's members drifting in and out - even young bands. They just don't seem to stick to a proper line-up anymore.
Gilby: Yeah, exactly.
Gilby: Well that's a hard one - I have a few, I mean, you know Bowie (Ziggy Stardust Era), definitely one of 'em, The (Rolling) Stones 'Sticky Fingers', you know I definitely could put some hard rock on that. I mean things like The Beatles, I mean I don't think I could add anything to that.
Glenn: It's a pity about George dying isn't it. That's a sad one.
Glenn: What would you say is your favourite (Rolling) Stones song?
Gilby: That's a hard one. I'd probably pick 'Wild Horses'.
Glenn: Wow brilliant. That's one of my favourites. Was it your idea to play it live?
Gilby: Yeah it was. When we were doing this in G'n'R - right before the first show - Slash just told me I had to do a solo section. It really was before the first show that I had to come up with something and so I said 'look - let's do 'Wild Horses' and it just kind of went over really well and we kinda kept doin' it. There was a couple of times I tried to change something out of it but it didn't work right.
Glenn: But it really was a really emotional part of the show. It sempt to bring all you guys together, you Axl and Slash into this little mesh and it went over absolutely beautiful man.
Gilby: Yeah I though so too. I thought it was a really cool moment. You know it's like the band really letting its guards down - it's doing something that wasn't pre-conceived or that we put on an album.
Gilby: You mean 'The Spaghetti Incident'
Glenn: Yeah - did you have much input to say what you wanted to put on that?
Gilby: Well I had some input. When we were picking some of the songs, you know like we were all talking about bands we were pickin', like it was my idea to do a T-Rex song. Although it wasn't my idea to do 'Buick McKane' (laughing). Actually I didn't know but the Nazareth song, 'Hair of the Dog', I was telling Slash that I go, 'You know, Axl always reminded me of that singer (Dan McCafferty) and that's a great song and what would we be able to do it?' And I think that was about it. I mean 'Hair of the Dog' was my idea and think about 'You and Me' and think about doing 'Trash' and 'Personality Crisis'.
Gilby: No, not really. I ran into Axl about a year ago and I see Slash like every now and then, like I ran into him at an Aerosmith show but we don't really talk. It's kind of 'Hey, what you doin' - we all kinda know what's goin' on with each other - people don't let us forget it. You know, I talk to Matt (Sorum) probably more than anybody. Matt calls me and I call him I'd say about once a month to check up on each other and Duff lives in Seattle so we get to stay in contact and kinda keep up on each other.
Gilby: By myself?
Gilby: I have a few. I think 'Cure me... or kill me...' is one of the best ones I've ever written. I really enjoy 'Tijuana Jail' although not that recording that we did of it. I like a song on the 'Hangover' called 'Once I get very great' - I like that song. I mean to tell you the truth I kinda like 'em all.
Glenn: For different reasons?
Gilby: Yeah - I find something I like about all of 'em. I think as far as song writing is concerned, 'Cure Me... or kill me' or 'Tijuana Jail'.
Gilby: That song was written quite a long time a go. I've had that song for a long time and I think whenever you like in a place for a long period you start having different ideas of, 'Is this the place for me?', you know, 'Is there a pot of gold some place else?' That was through my period right. I know there's a lot of people, you know, 'round LA that are like, 'I gotta get outta here, I gotta get outta here'. Although everybody aspires to get here - they get here and they gotta get outta here !! It now was in a period of my life that I was going through, I thought, 'I gotta get outta here - I gotta get to Ohio - I gotta get back to my roots- and there is this kind of my 3 minute version of that.
Glenn: Excellent. What about (the song) 'Margarita'?
Gilby: 'Margarita' is a song that was written because whenever we play these clubs - I did a tour with' The Beatings' who were opening and I was always making this comment that every time like we see a waitress at a Rock bar, I always said this thing to Brian, I go, 'Why are the waitresses always so hot?' Hot? - I still don't know why but they are always hot. It's like I kinda wrote that song - just kinda like a fictitious song, you know about a waitress - and you know waitresses have such interesting stories to talk (about). I mean, I'm a married guy, but like I'm not, I don't hang out with 'em, take 'em home, whatever so I end up talking to 'em; and they have such interesting stories - but that's like a kind of fictitious about one of those waitresses.
Gilby: You know what it is - the camaraderie of the guys. We get along really, really well and we have a very small touring party cause it's a 3 piece band and we usually have one crew guy with us and it's amazing because I can't tell how much I see those guys during these small club tours and we still have something to talk about. You know we don't always have to put the radio on. You know and it's pretty amazing and it's pretty cool - the conversations that we all have - we're actually all on the same ager and actually we have lots of things to talk about. It's funny, people think Rock 'n' Roll and we all talk about mortgage rates.
Glenn: At the end of the day - no matter where you are or who you are, everyone works to live and are all genuine people and that - you are gonna talk about the usual things are you? It's not a like a case of like 'Shbam -we're on stage like 24 hours a day - so that's how it works.
Gilby: Yeah - I always believe that you have to have other interests other than rock 'n' roll, I mean for the people that had nothing but rock 'n' roll - it killed 'em. You know it's like I enjoy when I get to my hotel room - you know a lot of guys wanna go out, they don't wanna hang out in Gilby's room - he's watching basketball. You know I like things like that - I follow you know, the MPA, my baseball team, the D and D and the Lakers - you know I gotta have those things in truth, otherwise I'd sit there and you know, I'd get f*cked up every night and that's not right - it's a short life.
Glenn: Yeah - that's it isn't it - 'Live fast, die young, leave a good looking corpse etc' and you sell loads of records but your not there to appreciate it - so what's the point!!
Gilby: Yeah. I think the same.
Gilby: I gotta tell ya - at this point in my life we got to visit a lot of places, especially on the G'n'R tour. I got places to go to - more as vacation spots - you know- I'm always looking for another beach - you know, I enjoy places like Kanco, Hawaii, stuff like that - I'm pretty much a vacations guy once (I get) the time.
Glenn: What would you say is your favourite part of America is? Any particular spots? We're going to Florida in a while.
Gilby: Yeah Florida is great. I have a favourite few spots - of course, always New York City. Miami is one of my favourite spots and New Orleans.
Glenn: We are on about touching Miami where Yngwie (Malmsteen) is and New Orleans was also mentioned.
Gilby: They are great man. I mean talk about vibe - remember America is only 200+ years old so we don't have a lot of history. Somewhere like New Orleans really feels like a couple of thousand years old.
Gilby: You know when I tend to go out - I tend to go out to see my buddies play - more like blues bars - I mean that's what I've been getting into - just going down to the seedy clubs and you know - watching the real musicians. You know that's great because I love that whole feel and love to watch those guys experimenting on their guitars and I recognise that and I just wanna be one of 'em - that's kinda what I do. You got your own spots here and there's loads of places to go to.
Right - I gotta get running. So if anything else comes up that you wanna ask - feel free to get in touch.
Glenn: Right. Thanks a lot Gilby for your time.
Gilby: You take care.
Hopefully you went to see Gilby on Tour with Love/Hate featuring Jizzy Pearl and be sure to buy the new album 'Swag' - there's a review in the 'G' section of CD Reviews.
Special thanks to Darren Edwards @ Eagle-Rock Records (UK) and John @ Spitfire Records (USA) for setting up this tremendously enjoyable large interview.
I owe it to you guys.