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 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 supergroup Rock ‘n Roll All-Stars, which just finished a series of shows in South America. Clarke was also participating in the Guns ’n Roses Hall of Fame introduction in April 2012. Gilby Clarke started his European solo tour in Helsinki on May 5th, where we had the pleasure to sit down with the man himself and discuss the current things mentioned above and 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 here as a solo artist, so I got to ask, what’s going on with your solo career nowadays?
Yeah, yeah, I haven’t done a solo tour like…like just gone out as 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, the 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 see different sets 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. It was their first show when they came to us in Finland – it was my daughters one year birthday, so I had the audience sing happy birthday to her, and that’s why I remember 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 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 were quite a rough time’s you had on the road…
Yeah, yeah, it was good, I mean, it was a good time, and we were having 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 on the bus and, 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 see, 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 have been so many different things that have drawn my attention away from it. It’s hard just to sit down and just go, “Okay, let’s 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 there all the time to really work on it.
But it shouldn’t be too difficult to work a new album with the help of modern technology, 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, creating something and then putting the record out, and then connecting with the fans, you know, with people who 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, it’s right, and if it’s not, it’s not, I can’t do it. I mean, I like all 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 except for 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 – it’s 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 with that is that you’re not dealing with Virgin, you know, or Warner brothers; you’re dealing with smaller labels when you license records. 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 I am, I am not a mainstream artist. I’m a rock and roll guy, you know, it’s… you know you can say the same thing about Michael Monroe. I mean, he’s such a talented musician, but he’s not mainstream, you know? I’m not saying we’re cultish, but it’s kind of a unique type of audience. This type of music 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 won the year title album 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… it’s just kind of also, you know, hard rock 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. Say 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 will 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 setbacks with some promoter issues and stuff 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 make it work.
I remember that had some names on the line-up which 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, especially when you are 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 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 same 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 a thing 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 goals do you have?
Yes, we will do the 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 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 everywhere.
When will those shows 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 you had in South America?
We don’t know. Does it really depend on who is available? I think the core band of myself, Duff, Matt, and Steve Stevens will be the same, but some of the singers depend on what they’re doing, you know.
I think Gene is busy at the time when he has a new KISS album coming 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 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, as 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?
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 didn’t have a lot of time for rehearsals, you know. As a 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, it was just was perfect, you know. The first couple of shows, as I said, took a little while to get you to 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 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. 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 it’s different. So to me, that was really fun. It was also great seeing 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 extraordinary 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 something like “All the Young Dudes” 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 keep going definitely.
Maybe you should ask Mike Monroe to join 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 rehearsed at 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 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. It took a little bit – like it took… you know we had to run through 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 him to kick ass because I got to tell you the performance that was shown. I thought it 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 an 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 band’s 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 – some people flew in from all around the world for that performance they planned on going to 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 was all the difference in the world.
The show went very well, you got great reviews, and I think that Myles got a lot of new fans that night. “laughs.”
I thought Myles did fantastically. He actually blew me because I’ve seen Myles do some of the Guns stuff. After all, I’ve seen Slash’s band play and stuff, and I think he does a really good job. I mean, Myles is a very versatile professional singer. I thought that was the best I’ve ever heard him sing that stuff was that night. I thought he 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 that it 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 a stop to 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, this was about it.
Great, now good. Good job
MORE PICTURES FROM GILBY’S HELSINKI SHOW !!