2001 - Total Guitar Interview
Harry Wylie finds out more...
With a lot of country and even a bit of reggae, is this album a bit of a departure for you?
I don't see it like that really. I kinda just do what I do, man. We got hold of Ian McLagan (ex-faces keyboards) to do the keys again, so it ended up in the same sort of vibe as the first record (Ju Ju Hounds, released in 1991) having all the electric organ on it. It's that kind of Maggie May feeling that I really love.
Where did the idea for the two reggae numbers come from?
It was the late 80's and I got into a lot of raggae, just as a chillout backstage at the Guns N' Roses shows. We had this big stereo we used to rag around, put the bass up real loud and the raggae going. We'd listen to a lot of Peter Tosh, all the old Bob Marley stuff. This one guy played me some Lee Scratch Perry, and when I heard that it was just, like, forget it! That's been really insperational to me me to this day. If you strip rock down, you'll find a reggae beat. Take Chuck Berry, pull out half the drums, every 2 & 4, or the kick drum, it's still three chords, but there you have reggae.
Did you try to get a really original rootsy sound?
Yeah, we made a conscious effort to make it really bassy. We added loads of low end to it, but the gear was just whatever was laying around, my Fender Deluxe Reverb, a Tele, and some bass or other. A long time ago I worked with Mikey Dread in Chicago, he showed me this keyboard pattern, like a pad behind each guitar click. Really great stuff.
Where did you record River?
In LA. The studio we've been using recently is where we did the Appetite For Destruction album, it is a really simple studio. It's still got same mics and same gear, and it just works fine.
Keith Richard does the occasional reggae track too, is he an influence?
Yeah. Any guitarist that plays rhythm can slip into reggae, the best riffs in the world are the ones that slightly anticipate the beat, or work around it in a cool way like that, and Keith is the master. The greatest track he did was Get Off Of My Cloud, and it was a different version, slower paced, and Keith does like a rap, a spoken word version of that song. Man that was fantastic. Never heard it before or since. Stones stuff is so cool, I was always a big Stones fan.
How about the guitarist you are working with on this album? Tell me more...
That's Rick Richards. I was a huge fan of the Georgia Satellites back in the 80's, I was lucky enough to meet the guy and end up working with him - that's been since 1990 when I started on the solo stuff. Rick brought in the first track on this album entirely on his own. That's in standard tuning, but Rick is the king of that retuned acoustic stuff, he uses open G all the time. All the slide stuff, he'll be playing either in G or open A. He just rips on that stuff, I just love to watch him play it.
The last track on River has a real Faces vibe. Was that intentional?
Well, I just love Woody too (Ron Wood, Faces, Stones guitarist - Ed) I was just listening to Every Piccture Tells A Story last night, man. I just love the sound they get on that stuff, they were just using what they had around, but to me it all sounds a lot more natural than all this digital technology.
What amps and guitars were you using on this album?
I've got a reissue of the Fender Deluxe Reverb, it's such a great amp, and I was using a late 70s Tele for most of the tracks, and a black Gibson ZES-125, that's the same kind of guitar I was using with Appetite For Destruction, but through a Mesa Boogie.
So who are your three most influential players?
Ron Wood, Ry Cooder , and Chuck Berry. Man, I got to see that guy play, he's one player I've never seen...
Having played rhythm guitar in one of the world's biggest bands, do you think modern players spend enough time practising rhythm skills, or is it just about flash soloing?
Well, I tell you what, there's nothing more annoying than a guitarist just noodling. Shredding, it's horrid. It's the same thing when you try to get a band together, you always end up with these noodlers, y'know...
So was Slash a noodler?
Yeah, when I first met him, yeah. Slash was a noodler, man. I think he still is. Like in Guns N' Roses he would noodle but then the vocals would come back in and that would shut him up!
How did the two of you play together then?
Originally I don't think Slash ever wanted to play with another guitarist. But we both really loved Aerosmith and the Stones and we just used that idea to make it all work. My favourite band was always the Ramones - just four guys wailing with power chords. At some point he and I hooked up and we started making it work. It became fun, just working with another guy like him, opposites attrack, I suppose.
How did the songwriting work in those days?
A lot of it we'd just do on acoustics, mainly the Appetite For Destruction stuff, we'd just bang chords out, pick out some guitar riffs, then plug it in. He's a great guitar player - he'll go, he's a guy if you let him go, he's just off, out there. You gotta reel him in now and then, but that's what he loves to do. Listen to the end of Paradise City, I'm just doing the power chords, G and D. And Slash just goes manic in the last four bars. It's incredible. Those were great times...
*River is out now on Sanctuary Records.