Gilby Clarke, Interview – ‘The Gospel Truth,’ Guns N’ Roses + More


Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke discusses his new album, "The Gospel Truth," in this new interview.

Gilby Clarke – Story by Anne Erickson, courtesy photo

Gilby Clark joins Anne Erickson to discuss his new solo album, “The Gospel Truth,” his time in Guns N’ Roses and more in this in-depth interview

Gilby Clarke needs no introduction. The longstanding guitarist has toured the world as the rhythm guitarist for Guns N’ Roses during the band’s famed “Use Your Illusion” tour, plus performed with a plethora of projects and bands, from Slash’s Snakepit to Heart to MC5.

Most recently, Clarke released his first solo album in roughly two decades, the raw, energy-packed “The Gospel Truth,” via Golden Robot Records. Clarke sat down with Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio about the new album, his favorite memories from being in Guns N’ Roses, the evolution of ’80s hard rock and grunge and more. Watch and read the full interview below, and subscribe to Audio Ink Radio on YouTube here. Visit Gilby Clarke’s official website for more information.

Anne Erickson: It’s great to see you, Gilby. How have you been doing this past year, which has been so upside-down?

Gilby Clarke: I think in the beginning, we were in an unknown territory, so nobody really know, knew where it was going, what was happening and stuff. It was hard, because as musicians, we lost our income. We lost everything, you know? So, it’s still hard, but every now and then, you got to get tested, and we just got tested. This is a battle. But, things are going to get better. Hopefully some good stuff will come from this. We’ll have to see, but I made it through unscathed. I’m still in my house. I still got my motorcycle. I got a couple of guitars and my wife and daughter. I’m okay.

You have a new record out, “Gospel Truth.” I love the raw, rock ‘n’ roll vibe on this record. This is that this is your first solo record in about two decades. What made now the right time to release it?

Well, that’s a big question, and I have a lot of answers, I never considered myself a solo artist. It was just something I did when I wasn’t doing other things. It was nice, because it gave me that outlet to make a record, to do some live dates, things like that. So, it got to a point where I just didn’t think I really needed to make a record. My live dates were doing fine. All the traditional outlets of record companies and radio and all that stuff didn’t really exist. So, I was kind of in that frame of mind that, why do I need to make a record? Fans are still there.

Then, one day, I ran into a friend of mine at the very last Motley Crew show. And we’re talking on this subject, and he kind of straightened me out. He just goes, “Do you consider yourself an artist?” I go, “Absolutely.” He goes, “Well, what are you creating? I kind of went, “Oh, I just kind of ride.” He kind of called me out. So, I started going, you know what? He’s right, man. I do like recording. I do like writing a record. This is stupid. So, I started getting the ball rolling, and that’s really what happened. Just got the ball rolling.

What’s great about being a solo artist is I don’t have to just use one drummer, one bass player. I can call all my friends and have five different drummers, five different bass players, a keyboard player, horns, background singers. We really made it a party making this record, and I think it sounds that way, too. It’s a fun rock ‘n’ roll record. It’s not depressing. It’s upbeat. It sounds like fun.

One of your friends who appears on the album is Nikki Sixx from Motley Crue. Tell me about your friendship with him.

I have known Nikki since before Motley Crue. I’m not going to go too far back, but I’ve known Nikki a long time. We’ve been friends over all the years. When I was doing the “Pawnshop Guitars” record, Motley was recording with John Corabi- for that record, we were at the same studio. So we hung out a lot during that process. I wanted to get Nikki on the record then, but they were making the record. They’re mixing. They just kind of got busy. So, when it came time to do this record, we had gone out to dinner one night. It was myself and my wife, Nikki and his wife and Billy Gibbons and his wife. We were talking about music. When you’re in a conversation with Billy Gibbons, you usually just shut up and listen. He’s got the best stories.

As we’re talking, somehow we got around to me recording and stuff, and I brought Nikki back to it. Like, dude, I’m making a record. You’ve got to get on it. That’s how it kind of happened. But, to have Nikki Sixx and Stephen Perkins of Jane’s addiction on the same song (“Tightwad”) to me is a big win.

Music has changed so much over the years. What was the biggest difference for you releasing a new record now versus years ago?

Wow. Well, first of all, back then, there was a team for everything. There was a team for radio. There was a team for publicity. There was a team for marketing. There was an A&R staff who watched over you, as well as your manager and stuff. I mean, you had teams doing things. It’s not just one person. You had a team of people, so you had a lot of different opinions. You didn’t have to just rely on one person’s opinion. So I, I think that is a big challenge, but I also think that the people that made it through all these changes are the good ones. The ones that stuck around, they’re the good ones.

You were part of one of the most exciting times in music, in my opinion, the ’80s and early ’90s. What do you most remember about that period in music history?

I think what I remember the most was it was fun. It was a fun job, you know? I mean, we all have our jobs, and we don’t always go to work with a smile on our face. I went to work every day with a smile on my face. I really feel- I can honestly say I was living the dream. It was such a great time, because anyone you ran into, they go, “Oh, what band are you in?” “Oh, Guns ‘N Roses.” “Oh, I know who they are.” It was easier. But, it was just kind of a magical time. I mean, everybody kind of liked the same kind of music. Rock was big. It was important, too. That kind of music was important. It employed a lot of people. It made a lot of money for a lot of people. So, it was important. Obviously, landscapes change. Music changes. It would be boring if it stayed the same forever. I’m happy to have those memories. To be honest. I don’t need to relive them. I remember some of it; not all of it! (Laughs)

You remember the good parts, I hope! Then, grunge kind of took over in the early-’90s. Was it as sudden as everyone describes it? When I’ve interviewed musicians like yourself, they often say it was overnight.

Well, no, it wasn’t overnight. I mean, I have a couple opinions about it. Number one, before I got the Guns N’ Roses gig as a guitar player, I was a Virgin songwriter- a Virgin records songwriter. So, I knew a lot about what new projects were coming up. So, I heard the Nirvana record before it came out, and I go, “Oh, my God. It’s a really good record.” But, I didn’t think of it as grunge. I mean, you could obviously tell it wasn’t a hard rock record. I just kind of thought it was almost like what Green Day was. It was kind of like pop punk rock is kind of what I thought it was when I heard it. So, when grunge first came in, first of all, I was in Guns at the time, and it didn’t affect us. We were playing stadiums- sold out stadiums. I’d say it affected us later. I’d say it affected us later, like when I did my first solo record, and when Slash did Slash’s Snakepit, the environment had changed a little bit. It was a little harder dealing with radio. And, I remember when I put out my first record, “Pawnshop Guitars,” my song “Cure Me or Kill Me” was doing incredibly well at radio, but I couldn’t break over that song, “Black Hole Sun.” It was always “Black Hole Sun,” No. 1, and “Cure Me or Kill Me,” No. 2. That’s when I started really noticing the climate change.

Do you remember the moment you first heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit?” It sounds like you heard it early.

I did. And, to be honest, that song didn’t even stick out to me. It didn’t until later on, when the videos and stuff came up, but I heard the complete record, and I thought it was a fantastic record. It sounded really good. Records didn’t sound like that back then. So, that’s what I thought was unique.

You’re not the first person I’ve interviewed to say that. Some of the hair metal musicians I’ve interviewed say when they heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” they thought it was just a cool-sounding rock record and didn’t think it would have anything to do with what they were doing.

Yeah, I agree. And, to be honest, I was getting a little bored of some of the music that was coming out. As someone who produces records, and I enjoy the sonic aspects of records, I was getting a little tired of the same old snare drum on every record and solo. It was getting old, to be honest.

You were on one of the most legendary rock tours of all time, Guns N’ Roses’ “Use Your Illusion” tour. What is your biggest memory from that run?

Well, once again, as I was saying, I have a terrible memory! But, there were so many highlights, and the good thing about time is you tend to let the s***itty stuff go. And, I do. I don’t hold grudges. I mean, I try not to hold grudges. But, the Freddie Mercury tribute concert, for me, was a huge highlight. When we did that, for me, it was my first time being in England. I got to meet so many of my heroes, like David Bowie and Mick Ronson. I mean, I stood on the side of the stage with Joe Elliot and watched Mick Ronson and David Bowie do “Heroes” together. We were the only two on the side of the stage. And, I got to be friends with Mick Ronson from that show.

I think when Guns N’ Roses went to South America for the first time, especially Buenos Aires, that was just mind blowing. I mean, we were like the Beatles down there. We had thousands of fans outside our hotel every day. We couldn’t go outside without a full security team. Even me! I’m not Slash. I’m not Duff. It was incredible. It really restored your faith in passion for music, because I’ve never felt that passion the way that the South American fans really felt that passion. So, there were so many highlights.

We lost some amazing musicians over the years, especially as of late. Is there one that hit you more than the others?

Wow. That’s an interesting question. Let me think about that. I’m going to say which ones surprised me, because some of them didn’t really surprise me, but I’ve got to say in all honestly, Michael Jackson really kind of took me, because I worked with Michael Jackson. I didn’t work with them the way Slash worked with them, but he was such a kind soul. Look, I know he had problems. We all have problems. But, sometimes people make mistakes, man. That one kind of hit home for me. That was really sad.

That was a big loss. For me, it was Chris Cornell.

Yeah. I mean, all of them. Chester (Bennington). We’d just played shows with Chester just a month or two before that. He always was such an upbeat person. The Chester that I knew just had such a great positive, strong, healthy vibe. There are so many. They all hit hard.

Is there anything new with Kings of Chaos?

Yeah! So, last year, unfortunately, we had a lot of Kings of Chaos dates. We had quite a few dates in the summer and fall, and in the beginning, everything got postponed just to get canceled later. So, we’re trying to put some of those dates together right now. Our first show is in June in New Mexico. And, I know that we’re trying to put a couple more together right now. So, I’m excited about that. Always. Yeah.

Do you plan to do tour dates to promote “The Gospel Truth?”

I hope so. I always do dates with my solo band, whether I have a record or not. But, I think what’s nice about having a new record is people start thinking about you a little bit more for maybe a festival. I certainly hope we can get some more dates together. I know you have some Kings of Chaos dates coming up. Also, I enjoy the process of recording music so much. I’ve been recording again, which has been nice. I mean, there’s nothing planned, but it’s been nice to get back in the studio and recording again.



Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Interviews, Music, Rock