INTERVIEW AND PICTURES BY MARKO SYRJALA
Gilby Clarke is an American guitarist and producer best known for his three year stint as the rhythm guitarist of legendary Guns N’ Roses. Clarke replaced original guitarist Izzy Stradlin in 1991 during the “Use Your Illusion” – tour. Following his departure from the group, Clarke started his own solo career and has played with many different groups like Slash’s Snakepit, Heart, and MC5. Recently Clarke has been busy with his all-star super group Rock ‘n Roll All Stars which just finished a series of shows in South America. Clarke was also participating in Guns ’n Roses Hall of Fame introduction in April 2012. Gilby Clarke started his European solo tour in Helsinki on May 5th which is where we had the pleasure to sit down with the man himself and discuss the current things mentioned above as well as his near future plans. Read on!
SOLO CAREER AND BLASTS FROM THE PAST
First of all, welcome back to Finland!
Well thank you.
This is your first time in here as solo artist so I got to ask, what’s actually going on with your solo career at the moment?
Yeah, yeah I haven’t done a solo tour like…like just gone out like you know for a year or something like that. But I do sporadic dates like we kind of do it like how we’re doing this. I do them in runs like you know we’d do two weeks you know like this part here is two weeks in Scandinavia basically. We just did two weeks in Europe you know UK, France and Italy. It’s been more things like that you know. And it’s just because of the way things are with the economy and stuff like that you know it’s just… it’s not – you can’t function anymore like you know me bringing my band down and doing a tour bus and sort of they are playing small – you know three hundred seat clubs, you know it’s not practical anymore. So kind of how I’ve been doing it is kind of how Chuck Berry used to do it you know it’s basically you know it’s myself and then I’ll have an opening band be in my band. You know they’ll open the tour and then the bass player and the drummer will come into my band. And I did this is Canada a couple of years back and it worked out really good and then I did it here worked good, we did it the same down here and I’ve done it in Italy and it works good. I mean it’s definitely different you don’t you know… the good thing is you’re seeing different set you know – you know you seeing different ideas of what I do and stuff but you know it’s not consistent I’ll tell you that.
Okay, if I remember right, the last time you played in Finland with Slash’s Snakebite in 1995?
Yes, I was reminded today; yes, it has been a long time.
Do you have any memories from that Nummirock festival where you did play back then?
I actually do honestly – here’s something crazy – usually I don’t – but I do and I’ll tell you why. My daughter was one year old and my wife and daughter and one of my wife’s friends came up to visit me on the Snakepit tour, and their first show they came to us in Finland – it was my daughters one year birthday and so I had the audience sing happy birthday to her and that’s why I remember about the show here. And the festival, it’s in the middle of nowhere, as I remember. Yeah I remember going in and out of like a mud road – you know that’s what I remember. But I remember we had a great time – you know Snakepit was a fun band, it’s like you couldn’t really go wrong you know it’s like… it was just lots of good guitar rock.
Yeah, and what I have read from Slash’s book and other sources that was quite a wild time’s you had on the road…
Yeah, yeah it was good, I mean it was a good time and we were having you know lots of fun. You know we just came off the big tour like a couple of years before that so it was fun to get back in the bus and just do you know do a rock and roll tour again.
NEW GILBY CLARKE ALBUM?
Do you have plans to release another Gilby Clarke solo album someday? I mean, SWAG was released in 2002, so it’s been ten years already…
I know it has been ten years and… you know, I got to tell you – I get asked this a lot – I had a solo album done and then the Super Nova project came up and took all my songs. Granted we probably shouldn’t have taken that long but I did have one and it did it – it took all my songs. So I pretty much have a close to a record done right now – I have about eight songs done. And it’s just…. I’ve always said when I have a good record I’ll put it out and I don’t have it done just yet you know and I’m not pulling an Axl – it’s just not there yet you know and I can’t force anything and there’s been so many different things that have drawn my attention away from it. It’s hard to just sit down and just go “Okay lets take two months, let’s go make a record” You know I don’t have a second hand like I used to. You know I have my L.A. guys, I have my Canadian guys – you know I have different guys I use but no one’s really there all the time to really work on it.
But it shouldn’t be too difficult to work a new album with a help of modern technology, just send over tracks and parts and then put them together in the studio, you know?
Yeah I mean a lot of time yes but I am not like that. I’m the kind of person that look I do write myself but I got into music because I like that connection and it’s the same thing why I still to this day – I’m going to be fifty this year and I still play live, I like that connection. You know I like that thing of me working with other guys, writing songs together, you know creating something and then put the record out and then you connect with the fans, you know with people that truly love music. You play the music they give it back to you that’s another connection. To me that’s what’s important about music. And it is few and far between these days but you know when it’s right its right and if it’s not, it’s not, I can’t do it I mean I like all my records I put out I mean some are better than others but you know I wouldn’t have put them out unless I thought they were done.
Yeah, and also you don’t “HAVE TO” release anything if you don’t want to, right?
Yeah, exactly, I don’t care.
You released a bunch of albums in the 90s, but with the exception of PAWNSHOP GUITAR – those later albums didn’t get so much attention and, in your opinion, what was the reason for that?
Yeah, I think it was a combination of a lot of things I think number one – they were not major labels. PAWNSHOP GUITAR is on Virgin so no matter what you have the marketing power of Virgin. I did something different on those records and I actually still do it to this day. When I make a record I actually make the record, I pay for the record you know – its mine, I own it – the masters are mine, I pay the musicians to play on it and I own it and then I license it. Now the problem about that is when you license records you’re not dealing with Virgin, you know or Warner brothers, you’re dealing with smaller labels. And I got to tell you every time I’ve sat in that meeting with them and gone look are you going to market this or are you going to… and they every single time tell me yes we’re going to market, we’re going to do this and they never do it. And I do think it’s a combination of yeah it’s hard, it’s hard. I also think in all reality the music I do and the kind of artist that I am, I am not really a mainstream artist you know – I’m a rock and roll guys you know its… you know you can say the same thing about Michael Monroe you know I mean he’s such a talented musician but he’s not mainstream you know its…I’m not saying we’re cultish but it’s you know – it’s kind of a very unique kind of audience and that really is not made to sell ten million records. You know…
You know, Michael did great with his latest album. He won several prizes in different categories in Finland and also won the album of the year title in Classic Rock magazine.
Oh, that’s fantastic!
But I don’t think that he still sold any crazy numbers with that album?
Exactly and that’s just… it’s just kind of also you know hard rock really isn’t at the forefront like it used to be and it hasn’t been since the 90’s you know. Not to say bands… you know you got Buckcherry, they still do really well you know – you know Velvet Revolver came out of nowhere and did very well. There are still bands that do very well but you know it’s harder, it’s harder.
ROCK AND ROLL ALL-STARS
Like you’ve said, you’ve been involved with many different things, and one of those was the Rock’n Roll All Stars tour. Tell something about that project and how you ended up there?
Oh yeah! The all-stars thing is… we just… I just got back from and we are going to be doing some more at the end of the year so that’s going to keep going you know it just… we had a couple of set-backs with some promoter issues and stuff but we since have fixed that. It actually came from Matt Sorum, Matt has a band called Camp Freddy that he does and it basically – it was more for charities and things like that and he just kind of thought it was a good time to go out and do some dates you know because a lot of us aren’t in bands right now – especially now that Velvet Revolver isn’t really isn’t going to happen right now. And so Matt’s idea was to take the core of myself, Duff and he as the band and then put guest people around that, you know, we would be the solid band the whole time. And for the dates, we just did some dates in South America. It was fantastic! I mean we had twenty thousand people at every show so it worked really well. But the most important thing is you have to have the quality guys you know like Joe Elliot, Gene Simmons and you know it… you have to have the top-notch guys to really make it work.
I remember that had some names on the line-up who didn’t make it to the final version, like Jason Newsted and Vince Neil. Whatever did happen to them?
No, you know that’s not true. We actually didn’t lose them, those people were never on. Yeah no, no… there’s you know when things like this happen there’s a lot of rumors and especially when you’re dealing with South America. South America just makes stuff up. They really do, like the promoters will say ‘oh why don’t you get Vince Neil and Jason Newsted and I was like no we already have the band. But they’ll tell the people that they are playing so no we had the exact…we know this because look the contract started three months before and we had to have the people. We didn’t lose anybody that was the exact band we set out to.
Right and there are always rumors flying whether you want it or not…
Clear some airs… no I know well there was thing that was called the Titan’s of Rock that was never true – it was always just called Rock and Roll All Stars.
You mentioned that there are plans to do more shows with Rock ’n Roll All Stars in the future. What kind of plans you actually do have?
Yes, we are going to do US, we’re going to do Europe, we’re going to do Australia, we’re going to do what was over there that we were just talking about – that I just got an email about it, it was – I think it was China or something like that – like Indonesia and things like that so it’s going to go to everywhere.
When those shows will take its place?
At the end of the year, we are starting in September again.
Do you already know if it’s going to be the same line-up what you had in South America?
We really don’t know it really depends on who are available? I think the core band of myself, Duff, Matt and Steve Stevens will be the same but some of the singers depends on what they’re doing you know.
I think Gene is busy at the time when he’s having a new KISS album out soon?
Yeah Gene is busy right now and so is Joe Elliot but Joe I think is going to come back too. I don’t think Gene will probably come back but Joe is going to come back after the Def Leppard tour is done.
Speaking about rumors, one says that http://www.rnrallstars.com is owned by Gene Simmons?
No, it’s not true, he’s just fucking around. Some of the guys just fuck around. “laughs”
Right, like you said the tour in South America was a big success for the Rock and Roll All Stars. What was the highlight of the tour for you personally?
Well, for me the best show was the last show in Lima, Peru – it was a great show. You know the thing about those kinds of tours especially when you have so many different personalities, is it takes a little while to get going you know. And especially since, we really didn’t have a lot of time for rehearsals you know. Matter of fact Sebastian wasn’t even at the rehearsals. Gene only came down one time so it takes a little while for it to click and the last show we did in Lima, Peru it clicked! It was… man that show was flawless I mean there was… it was just was perfect you know. The first couple of shows like I said took a little while to get you know… who comes on? Who comes off stage? Things like that you know – song order but yeah the Lima, Peru show to me was just fantastic.
In playing wise was it challenging to put all that stuff together without having a proper training with the whole band?
Well, I mean it’s really fun… I mean to me what’s special about doing something like that is taking guys out of their element. You know taking Steve Stevens and make him play Kiss songs… you know it’s, it’s… having us play Def Leppard songs you know. I mean it’s not stuff that we were used to playing; we all have different styles. It’s not to say ones better or worse it’s just its different. So to me that was really fun it was also great seeing like Glenn Hughes singing backgrounds for guys like doing “Rock and Roll All Nite”, you know. I mean Sebastian, we couldn’t stop him from singing the Kiss stuff you know he was on everything but it was cool like… even me like doing the Skid Row stuff; that’s not stuff that I am comfortable playing and you know it was a challenge to be able to play that the way the guys played it you know.
For me the most obscure thing on Rock N’ Roll All Stars thing was when Gene was playing bass on Deep Purple’s “Burn”. That was something really special to see “laughs”
Oh …well that was a better rehearsal or something because he didn’t do a lot of it. But I mean we were doing all the young dudes like at rehearsal and Gene jumped up and started singing along with us you know he knows all those songs. It was fun I got to tell you – I mean every now and then a tour is fun and that was fun. We had a really good time.
It’s great to hear that this thing is going to continue.
It is going to go… it is going to definitely keep going.
Maybe you should ask Mike Monroe to join on some European dates?
Yeah exactly, that would be nice.
HALL OF FAME WITH GNR
There’s one thing which did big headlines lately and it was the Guns ‘n’ Roses Hall Of Fame thing…
Well first of all it was great! I mean what was really nice was how easy it was you know… first of all, we only decided a couple of days before and we did the rehearsal… the show was Saturday; we did the rehearsal like two am Friday night. And when we first got together – you know we have a way of clicking – I mean the kind of music the Guns music is, it was all very comfortable for all of us to play but that line-up of Steven and myself, Slash and Duff would never would have done that, never. Like you know I played with Steve and the guys have played with Steve but we’ve never played together with Steven and it took a little bit – like it took… you know we had to run thorough the tunes a couple of times to you know get Steven you know up to the way we play it you know and it…just a little bit but I think having Matt there, having Steven you know that you know Matt was right there – you know made him kick ass because I got to tell you the performance that was shown I thought was great. I don’t think we could have done it better to be honest with you.
There were so many rumors flying around before the performance did happen… Is there going to be anything? Is it going to be original band and the list goes on. So, at which point did you get the call?
I honestly got the… well first of all I was never going to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Slash wasn’t going to go. Basically, Duff was going to go on the bands behalf to talk you know. When we got the word that Axl wasn’t going I think that’s when Slash said you know what we owe it to the fans – there are people that flew from all around the world for that performance they planned on going six months before. So he goes “You know what we owe it to them to play something” so… Duff called me like two nights before and we were in the Rock and Roll All Stars rehearsals and he goes ‘look we are going to play and we want you to go’ you know and that’s what changed my mind because I was never going to go. And the rock and roll hall of fame offered for me to go and I didn’t want to you know it just… I didn’t think it was right but having the guys ask me that was all the difference in the world.
The show went very well, you got great reviews and I think that Myle’s got lot of new fans that night. “laughs”
I thought Myles did fantastic. He actually blew me because I’ve seen Myles do some of the Guns stuff because I’ve seen Slash’s band play and stuff and I think he does a really good job. I mean Myles is very versatile professional singer. I thought that was the best I’ve ever heard him sing that stuff was that night, you know I thought he did… he really just pulled it out man!
Yeah, of course lots of speculation started to fly around after the show – “Maybe this line-up is doing something together in the future?” How do you see that thing, I mean, is that something which might happen in the future?
No, it’s never going to do anything. No look Slash has a new record; he’s going to be touring for a long time. I mean if something came up, I don’t think anybody would be against it but it is just fun to talk about. But I think the one thing that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame thing really did was kind of close that door. You know that door of look the original line-up you know Axl, Slash, Izzy are never going to play together, you know, it’s time for everybody to put it behind them.
Yeah maybe it’s good to put stop for all that speculation about them getting back together?
It’s good exactly, you know, look Axl’s out there touring – you want to see Guns and Roses, go to see him. If you don’t – don’t go see him but he’s out there, he’s touring – either support it or don’t or you have the music to listen to you know.
Yeah, Okay, I this was about it.
Great, now good. Good job
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