60 Seconds with...
A minute’s enough to find out what makes a great guitarist tick. Before his limo left for the airport, we grabbed 60 seconds Paul Gilbert
GT: Who was your first influence to play the guitar?
PG: It was The Beatles, The Partridge Family, The Osmond Brothers, and my uncle Jim. I heard Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix soon after.
GT: What was the first guitar you really lusted after?
PG: Whatever was in the Sears ‘Wishbook’ catalogue in 1973. Knobs, switches, and pointy cutaways were important. And then I saw Jimmy Page in The Song Remains The Same, and I wanted a Les Paul.
GT: What was the best gig you ever did?
PG: It was at clinic years ago, in a city in the middle of Taiwan. I just played everything right. Not a single clam… lots of inspired bending… and merciless tear-your-face-off shred. I rocked those 229 people!
GT: And your worst playing nightmare?
PG: Every time that I play my hometown in Pennsylvania, something goes wrong with my gear. It’s my fault. I imagine that all the people that I knew in high school must be in the audience, and I want to impress them, so I stomp on my pedalboard so hard that it pulls out the power cable.
GT: What’s the most important musical lesson you ever learnt?
GT: Do you still practise?
PG: When I was 11, my uncle heard me play, and he said, “You should put your hand on the bridge, so all the strings don’t ring out.” He also said something about practising all the time. And he told me to that I had to buy an album called War Heroes, by Jimi Hendrix. Those three certainly got me headed in the right direction. PG: I don’t run scales up and down with a metronome. I think I’d quit guitar if I had to listen to that again. But I love to practise new sounds that I find. The fretboard is still full of unsolved mysteries. I love to play and to listen, preferably both at the same time.
GT: Do you have a pre-gig warm-up routine?
PG: If it’s really cold, I’ll try to find some way of warming up the room. I brought a space heater on my last European tour. I kept blowing fuses backstage! But my challenges are usually more mental than physical. My set often has new songs that I barely know, so I’m just trying to remember the lyrics, arrangement, and where the good notes are.
GT: If you could put together a fantasy band with you in it, who would the other players be (dead or alive)?
PG: Bon Scott on vocals. Angus and Malcolm Young on guitar. Cliff Williams on bass. And me on drums! I’d like to play drums with The Beatles as well, but I’m not good enough to handle the tricky stuff on I Feel Fine.
GT: Who’s the greatest guitarist that’s ever lived?
I imagine all the people I knew in high school must be in the audience, and I want to impress them.
PG: When I saw Eddie Van Halen in 1979… I don’t think I’ve ever been as inspired.
GT: Is there a solo you really wish you had played?
PG: Actually I have more envy for singers than guitarists – the guys that can hit those high notes. If I could go to a music store and buy a vintage McCartney, Mercury, Zander, or Dio… But guitar solos? I probably would have messed them up with widdly-widdly. I’m glad Neal Schon is Neal Schon. Nobody could have written and played those melodies better.
GT: What’s the solo or song of your own of which you’re most proud?
PG: I like Green-Tinted Sixties Mind. It’s got a good intro, and the audience always responds well when I play it. In general, I don’t pay much attention to my own music after I’ve played it. It’s like a meal that I’ve already eaten. It’s like, “On to the next! Where’s the menu? I’m hungry!”
GT: What would you most like to be remembered for?
PG: I played drums with Cheap Trick! What else could I ask for?
GT: And what are you up to at the moment – tours, gigs, albums, new gear etc?
PG: I just finished a solo album called Stone Pushing Uphill Man. I think it’s good… too many notes, probably, but many of them are bent, so it’s all right. I also just finished a new Mr. Big album. It’s good too! It has just the right amount of notes, since there is a producer involved. I’ll be touring with Mr. Big later this year. I have an online guitar school with a company called Artistworks, so I’m teaching there daily. And new gear? Yes, my 25th Anniversary signature guitar is out from Ibanez. It’s a maple flame Fireman. I love that guitar like a ripe nectarine in season. More from www.paulgilbert.com
Paul Gilbert: inspired bending and tear-yourface-off shred!