2001 - Guitar & Bass
Music has always worked in cycles, and after a long era where machines and samplers reigned as uncontested bosses over the charts, it seems that rock and "true" music, played by musicians who practised their instrument diligently for years, are in process of a comeback or at least benefit from a renewal of interest. This new cycle is heralded by the reformation of numerous groups that were considered gone as well as by a quick return of a whole caste of musicians that were thought to be gone from the business. Rock and guitar are again at their rightful place and one can see the resurgence of a whole lot of artists of which Guns N'Roses, re-formed by Axl Rose, the only original member of the group. The other members of this group - beacon of the 90s - all lead other projects and it is one among them who distinguishes himself by his talent and his sincerity. Since his departure from Guns N ' Roses, Izzy Stradlin had formed a new group, The Ju-Ju Hounds, that one had been able to see in concert in Elysée-Montmartre for the release of the album of the same name, and obtained well-deserved praise from the critics. Then, Izzy continued under his own name and one finds him, after a Japanese tour in 2000, with a fantastic new album today, River, that returns guitar rock to its rightful place. Izzy Stradlin in Europe right now to promote this new CD, a small jewel of rock 'n' roll which will delight all fans of saturated guitar and solos [pentatoniques]. This pearl was well worth our time, and it is in a big Parisian hotel that we found him. He welcomes us to his chamber with a rather rare kindness and spirit. Hardly do you enter the room, when he rushes to greet you, a guitar glued to his hand and, like a kid with his new toy, fills you in on this new [grater] bought in California some weeks earlier. Sincere and cordial, Izzy like the true stars is a person who is most nice and true to life and doesn't at all convey the negative clichés which one sometimes finds in some celebrities. It is so with great happiness that we met him for you.
A RED SIGNED SG ANGUS YOUNG...
Izzy Stradlin: So look at this Gibson (he holds out to me a magnificent red SG with vibrato where one can read "Angus Young" on the head and the rack), it's really fantastic! I haven't put it down since I bought it. It's so easy to play that I don't stop [gratouiller]! I'm downright crazy about it! I bought it a little while before going on vacation in Costa Rica. it cost me 1000 dollars and I even had a crazy adventure with it. I took it with me on vacation over there. When I came back to the United States, I had it with me and the guy in the US customs began to give me shit when I showed up at the airport. He asked me to open the case, tore it out of my hands and asked me which wood it was made of. I answered him without knowing what would happen that it was ebony. I shouldn't have done that! This guy was a big very surly redneck and especially very [vicelard]. To my big surprise, this big idiot tells me that the ebony is a species of tree that is endangered. He tells me that in fact it is a protected species whose trade is forbidden, that, if he wants, he can confiscate it from me in an instant. I told him that I bought this guitar in America and that I took it on vacation with me. He really wanted to bust my balls and he answers me that it doesn't have anything do do with it, that he can seize it from me and I can't do anything about it. I think that this jerk simply wanted to steal it, that he wanted to take it for himself. I made a scene and his boss arrived. It all worked out in the end, but I really thought for a few minutes that this guitar was going to come out of my life as quickly as it had entered...
Guitar & Bass: You are connected on what there?
(Izzy takes out from behind the bed a small Marshall MS 20) When I travel, I take along just one [gratte], a plastic jack and this small amplifier. It's small and the sound isn't perfect, but it's still just fine to have fun in your hotel room. There is even a [potar] for saturation, I can't say that it is the large [???] that saturates sufficiently for [chorusser] and play rock'n'roll tricks well. I can set up ideas and write outlines of songs about anywhere. While making saturate, the best sound is that which one obtains while making only saturate very slightly, like a kind of overdrive. It is really very practical. I composed not badly of songs in this manner, all at least the starting ideas. And since I bought this Gibson, I use nothing any more but this amplifier there when I travel. With regard to the whammy bar, it tends to make the tuning move but I am not an enthusiastic user. If you do not misuse while drawing above like a patient, the guitar remains very playable. For thousand dollars, I am very satisfied. I could have asked Duff to help me because he is very connected with the retailers, he can get super prices. He exploited the pieces which I have realized for two years and we are always very close to one another. After having exchanged some licks and having tested the splendid SG Angus Young, it is necessary to remind Izzy that we are there to bet of his new album, the guy is so little turned to business that he prefers to jam and to exchange plans with people that he meets, talk instruments or amplifiers rather than to make his proper promo.
If you want, we will speak about River, the album that you will release shortly. It is a terrific disk that makes the beautiful part to the rock'n'roll, but one feels that the writing is for you the major element...
Absolutely, it is the main thing, I play either in "regular tuning", or in open tuning [open de Sol] that allows me to concentrate on melodies with great freedom. I adore to play live, when you can play very strong, it's in these conditions that you realize if songs are good or not, if they make the effect in ears of the aid. To write songs again and is again indeed this that I prefer in the fact to play music, To still write songs is still really what I prefer in the fact of playing music, I was never connected by the chorus and the demonstrations of the style: "You saw what I can do? I can play like an animal!" I find that really sterile and characteristic of an obvious psychological problem (laughter)! To come back some to River I place a lot of hope in this album because the precedent, Ride On, that was only released Japan, didn't give anything to the rest of the world. For the good reason that I didn't even succeed in finding a distribution elsewhere than over there. We went to play Japan and [basta]. It is for that that I am very happy release River all over the world. I would have liked to take Ride On here, in Europe, but good, it would be necessary that I stir up the bag myself.
Is your group always the same?
Yes, we've been together since 1995. There is Rick Richards of Georgia Satellites who plays the guitar with me. He plays all slide parts and solos. He is very strong and we perfectly completes each other. He's been with me since 1992 and played on all my disks. There is Duff who also plays on my disk. He plays on all titles except on the reggae. This is not a style that inspires him but me, I love it. To the percussion there is Taz who comes from a psychobilly group of that has been badly marketed in the States. It is a type of rockabilly played knew steroids, in depth the case. It would be necessary that I send you a CD. He plays on my last three albums. There is also Ian McLagan that is also a precious help to me. I am very attached to the human rapport and rather of the faithful kind. These types are extra and I am very proud to have them with me. They will be also present on the next tour.
Did they participate in the writing in your company?
I don't have anything against writing jointly; I wrote most songs for River alone, but there are some exceptions, like the first piece of the album, where it is Rick who came up with the music. When it was pointed and that he played me this riff, I found it so good that I made it the starting point of a new song and I don't regret anything when I listen to the final result. I only had to put lyrics over it. All was held perfectly with a lot of spontaneity. The remainder has been made in a very simple manner, I write in my corner with acoustic and I unload to repeat them to show them that that I made. Then, we arrange that all together, each is free to bring ideas and to play parts as he feels it on his instrument. I'm not a dictator. Rarely, I compose on the electric but I find that it is easier with an acoustic. Sometimes, we even play all together with the acoustic before passing to the big electric sound. It is maybe a question of resonance. It is as when you sing while accompanying on twelve-string acoustics. It would be necessary besides that I buy myself one. I have an excellent six string, but it is going to be necessary that I think about finding me one of those.
A DICTAPHONE AND AN ACOUSTIC GUITAR
Do you make demos before going in the studio?
It sometimes happens to me to record things on small Tascam four track. I have a rhythm box which plays a very simple pattern and that's all. Most of the time, I record my ideas for songs on a small dictaphone like yours. I record myself singing while accompanying on acoustics and that's good, I don't need anything else. I think that it is useless ahead of time to arrange the models as if you were making an album, when you arrive at the studio to record the titles definitively, you do not have any more ideas, or energy. In general, I am rather kind to be unloaded at the others with my dictaphone. The basic ideas that it contains are sufficiently rough to leave them a vast field of possibilities as far as arrangements. I believe only in what is live! I have the luck to have musicians who retain songs quickly without needing all to note and all to learn for days. My drummer plays plans once and it is good, he has a memory of elephant. I like simply made simple things.
How long you did need for the development of River?
There were five days of work in Seattle and five days in Los Angeles. The majority of the songs were written before, but much of the arrangements were made in studio on the fly. There is only the reggae that was written directly in the studio. We were alone, Taz and me, and we left on this idea to go until the end, he did the percussion and I undertook the remainder. All the remainder was recorded with the whole group. With regard to the words, I must confess that I arrived at the studio with quite a lot of holes but we finished everything there. Generally, I am satisfied with only one verse and only one chorus to start to work on a title. Thereafter, I finish with the will of inspiration. Ian McLagan did all the keyboard parts in only one day when we were in Texas. I believe that all really was in the box in three weeks, which is not enormous since the mixing is included.
Did the writing also take you a short time?
No, there are three or four songs on the album which I had written during the tour that we did last year in Japan. The rest was made up when I was in L.A. There's also a song which I had already worked in 1992 with Ju Ju Hounds. I had to record it at least five times, there's even a version where Slash does the lead guitar. It was a good song, but there was something which didn't stick. I changed full with things and I also changed the lyrics, it finally became the reggae which is reproduced on River! The title-track, "River", dates from at least a year ago, I recorded it on my 4-track and I revised it a good package of time before arriving at the final result. I can leave an idea in a corner for six months or a year before returning there, I created a kind of musical bank for myself where I can draw ideas according to my desires or of my inspiration.
THE FUTURE OF ROCK...
To sing and to play at the same time poses problems for many guitarists what advice can you give them in order to help them to master the thing better?
Persevere. The only thing that permits you to advance and to arrive at your goals is to exercise again and again. I progressed a lot to this level when we didn't repeat with Guns N' Roses when Axl didn't come or refused to sing. I had to get in his place and had to sing "Paradise City" or "Welcome To The Jungle", that made me progress. The important thing is to have a good solo tot hear you correctly. After that, it's all a matter of practice.
Didn't you listen to something of new Guns N' Roses?
No, I just saw a report on them in Q, in England. There was a photograph where Axl was not really to his advantage, he was large and puffed up. I hope that that sounds better than it looks. Axl called me when he had the plan to play Rock In Rio. I don't believe that he hoped to reform the group as a whole because I am the only one that he called, but, in any event, I declined the offer. Maybe he estimated that his group was not good enough, all the same they had rather positive reviews on the whole. Axl is really a special type, he's too hard to manage.
You were involved too much in your own projects to agree to follow him...
Yes, I already had this album in preparation and I prefer to leave on the road with my group, I find everything I need there without problems that occur when you're with Axl...
Is a tour planned?
Yes, we're going to go everywhere where we will be able to, all over the world this time. We should start this summer with the States, then Europe and Japan. We'll repeat a week or two and then forward, I don't intend to even make a few small showcaseses to prepare the land. I want to play the card of spontaneity and to arrive with a big push.
Do you think that after the machine that we've just lived through, that we will return from there to more natural music where musicians will find their place?
I hope for it well, people start to get tired of these rigid and cold rhythms as well as all these artists who play with ends of tapes. I always preferred the exchange between musicians in front of concerned audience. I hope that rock still has beautiful days in front of it. It is obligatory that something happens again because we've reached the point of no return in the States, the groups parade the one after the other, make which looks just the others and return to obscurity. That always makes me think of this magnificent song of Pink Floyd which is "Welcome To The Machine" on Wish You Were Here. I am very happy to note that a whole heap of talented artistes can make their return at this moment because the interest for truly played music is coming back, like Ian (Astbury) and The Cult for example. I learned that they put out an album and that made me very pleased. As long as there will be types to play the electric guitar, all will not be lost. All the magazines speak about this phenomenon in the States, that must be similar at home.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Quite a lot of reggae, Lee Scratch Perry, it's very relaxing. Motörhead with Ace Of Spades that I always carry in my bag, the Rolling Stones obviously, I found a bootleg in Japan where Keith Richards plays "Cocaine" and of the old blues of families it is sublime. Ike and Tina Turner, the old albums, I listen to quite a lot of old things eventually.
Now that you know Izzy Stradlin a little, you can hurry on to his album, River, you won't be disappointed in the journey. The good guitar albums are not so numerous as that and his is indubitably an excellent one. Come back this summer for concerts that promise to be hot...
RICK RICHARDS THE QUIET FORCE
He has forged himself a solid reputation as a rocker as well as that of an exceptionally gifted guitarist throughout the course of his group, Georgia Satellites, and is already for a few years at the side of Izzy Stradlin on disk as well as on stage. Rick Richards, the old alter-ego of Dan Baird, never let the rock'n'roll fall, and he agreed to discuss on this occasion with us his present and future projects at the time of the release of River, the new album of his boss.
There are musicians whose analogies do not stop only at the musical level. From a character point of view also, some of them have a mentality and an attitude which makes it that one is by no means amazed to see them teaming up together for a new project. Izzy Stradlin is a friendly, terrific guy and Rick Richard has nothing to envy him from this point of view. While some even have no reflexes which infers a correct education and belch at you between two sentences that they granted disparagingly to send to you, Rick Richards is everything as his accomplice Izzy Stradlin, one incredible type of a kindness, so friendly as modest and ready-made to answer the questions of those who honour him with being interested in his music. No doubt, one is not at Black Crowes! Just like an Ed King of Lynyrd Skynyrd who answers a request for autograph by thanking you for appreciating his humble music, there are people so affable as bright in their domain to avoid managing to think that the show business is only a pack of egoistic and contemptuous bastards. Rick Richard is of those and he was kind enough that one disturbs him at home in Atlanta for a courteous phone conversation, just to have his point of view on River.
Guitar & Bass: What is - what makes this collaboration between Izzy and you last?
He was always really sensible, at the musical level as well as from a human point of view and when he wanted to set out again on the road and to make a new album, it is quite natural that we found ourselves. I find myself very much at ease with him and I really appreciate his song-writing. I find that River is very successful and I am sincerely happy to take part in it.
Speaking of River, did you specifically take part in the writing of the pieces?
I wrote the music of only one title but I could fully take part in the development of arrangements of the other pieces, except for the reggae where Izzy does all the instruments. He's a good type which leaves much freedom to his musicians.
What guitars did you use on River?
Mainly a Paul Reed Smith. I also employed a Telecaster and Les Paul here and there as well as a few other guitars. Side amplifier, I played on various hardware like Marshall JCM 2000, Fender Twin Reverb Deluxe and some others.
How do you get the same sound when you are in concert?
I have a Mesa Boogie and I manage while playing with the five postion switch, this is not Peru but I manage it very well like that.
You have been with Izzy Stradlin for a few years, we're all wondering if Georgia Satellites have a future...
I hope so, we've talked about it for a long time without that being done but I believe in it. I'm preparing a solo album with the drummer of the group.
Do you have news of Dan Baird?
Of course, he also has a group and came out with an album some time ago already. I believe that he would be leaving to put back his place with Georgia Satellites, but I am with Izzy for the moment. If that is done, it will be only when Izzy does not need me anymore.