Heart of Steel: Interviews

Interview With Paul Gilbert
Interview By Keith McDonald

 Most people know Paul Gilbert as the former axeman for the hard rock band Mr. Big. The band had commercial success with their #1 hit ‘To Be With You’ and sold millions of records worldwide over their career. Yet the ride didn’t last forever. Paul left Mr. Big to concentrate on his solo career and was replaced by ex-Poison guitarist Ritchie Kotzen. The band played on for a short while to only call it a day a few years later. I caught up with Paul who gave me an update on his career. You can check out his website at www.paulgilbert.com.

paul gilbert

What have you been up to?

I'm on vacation! I've been taking yoga and studying Japanese. I'm still playing guitar and writing music, but not for a record company deadline. My brain needs a break from insane work and jetlag.



Why did Mr. Big call it a day?

It just wasn't fun anymore, so I left. I want to make music and have a good time. The band continued for a few years after I left. I wasn't in the final breakup so I can't really tell you what happened.



Do you still speak to any of the members?

Not often, but I see the guys once in a while.



What type of gear do you use?

Ibanez guitars. They make a Paul Gilbert model called the PGM. Laney amps. I like the GH100L head. DiMarzio pickups. I like the Tone Zone. Ernie Ball strings. I like the RPS Super Slinky's.



paul gilbertWhy do you think that there are no more 'Guitar Gods' around?

As long as Pat Travers and Robin Trower are still playing somewhere, Guitar Gods walk among us.



Do you feel great guitar playing is missing from the newer bands that have been coming out?

I saw John Mayer on TV and he played pretty well. I saw some country singer playing AMAZING guitar on Austin City Limits. I have no idea who he was. I just saw Ty Tabor with King's X at a club and he played great. So it's around.



Many people don't realize that after Mr. Big's popularity died out here in the States, that the band was still very big in Europe and Japan. Why do you think that was?

Japanese rock fans really like virtuoso guitar playing and good melodies. Plus the photographers in Japan made us look really good.



How much of a difference do you think there is there between the US and Japan markets?

For heavy metal, it's a huge difference.



Why are Japanese fans so loyal to their bands?

I don't know. I'm loyal to my bands. I still love the bands I grew up with.



Who were your guitar influences?

Jimmy Page, Eddie Van Halen, Alex Lifeson, Robin Trower, Pat Travers, Pat Thrall, Angus Young, Ted Nugent, Ace Frehley, Joe Perry, Brad Whitford, Pete Willis, Steve Clark, Glenn Tipton, K.K. Downing, Billy Sheehan, Randy Rhoads, Yngwie Malmsteen, Gary Moore, Akira Takasaki, Michael Schenker, Johnny Ramone, Allan Holdsworth, Jimi Kidd, and Rick Neilson.



Any advise for an up and coming guitarist?

Practice 100 hours a day. Find a drummer to play with. Learn these songs: "Circumstances" by Rush "Come On and Love Me" by KISS "If I Fell" by The Beatles "Riff Raff" by AC/DC "Mother Mary" by UFO "Teenage Lobotoby" by The Ramones



Would you ever consider putting Mr. Big back together?

No thank you. I want to play new songs and have fun.



Will you record a new solo album? Are your solo albums still available?

I think you can still get all my solo stuff. Look on amazon.com. I've written a bunch of new songs, but I want to write more before I make a record out of it.



What lies ahead for you?

I'm figuring that out right now. I'd like my life to be a little more normal for a while. I don't want to go completely deaf, so I'm trying to find ways to work without blasting my ears all the time. I want to make more good music. Lots of it. Thanks for interviewing me.

Website: www.paulgilbert.com