Interview: Paul Gilbert Q&A

Hi Paul, thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. You’re about to release your new album ‘Behold Electric Guitar’. Are you happy with how it turned out and how do you think it compares to your previous output? PG: It’s the best album I’ve ever done! I’m very happy with the album. But I’m going to play the songs even better when I get on tour with my band. We rehearsed today, and I’m already getting more comfortable with the songs. I’ve read that the songs on the album are all-live takes with no overdubs. Was that not quite a scary way to work? Are there any mistakes that you’ve left in there or did you just redo entire songs until they were perfect? PG: I want the music to feel good. It’s not a math test or a classical piano competition. It’s an emotional performance of rock music. If a mistake sneaks in there once in a while, I don’t mind. And I am fortunate to play with such good musicians, so mistakes are actually pretty rare. And I love playing live, because we listen to each other, and react to each other. That’s very true. Now new album has some quite jazzy moments. Have you been listening to a lot of Jazz recently? Who are your Jazz inspirations and can we expect a Jazz fusion album any time in the future? PG: I wanted to learn more about how to play blues. So I listened to jazz horn players to see how they did it. Johnny Hodges is one of my favourites. He is very melodic and plays with a lot of expression. My ear got a lot better from listening to him. Some players stay fairly rigidly stylistically the same throughout their career. You seem to be constantly and enthusiastically exploring new things. Is this a true statement and what do you feel is new on the new album? PG: Yeah, I’m fortunate to not have that many hits! This gives me the flexibility to play more new music. I’m playing a lot of vocal lines on my guitar on this record. It’s a very different approach than typical guitar scales. I feel like my melodic playing is getting so much better from playing melodies that I wrote by singing first. On your recent masterclass tour you talked about how “Sir You Need To Calm Down” has actual lyrics but instead of singing them you play the vocal melody on the guitar. Were there any other songs on the album that were written in this manner? PG: Yeah… almost all of them! I wrote pages of lyrics, wrote melodies for them, and then translated the melodies to guitar. And of course, “A Herd of Turtles” ended up being a spoken word poem. When I saw you live you talked about your guitar playing vocal melodies and that it could hit notes that you couldn’t. There’s no singing on this album, will your guitar be your voice from now on or can we expect more singing in the future? PG: I might still sing… with my voice, once in a while. But my guitar playing is much more reliable. I really enjoy practicing a melody over and over, without worrying that I’ll blow out my voice. I can play guitar all day, and my fingers and hands are fine! There was a plan for a movie remake of Yellow Submarine at one point (I believe the project has been shelved though). You could have offered your services at doing a voice-over for that one. You’re doing a very Beatles-esque Liverpudlian accent on “A Herd Of Turtles”. Why do an accent for the song and who did you base it on? Is this a new found talent or can you do a range of different accents? PG: I tried reading my poem, “A Herd of Turtles,” in my normal voice, but it just didn’t feel right. So I tried my “Ringo” voice, and it felt much better. I’m not really an accent expert, but I have fun trying to sound like Ringo Starr! Haha! everyone does love Ringo! Back to the new album, much of your output has been released on Shrapnel. Your latest album “Behold Electric Guitar” is out on Mascot records. Why the change? PG: I’ve worked with Mascot before as well. I certainly had some great days with Shrapnel in the past. Mascot is cool because Eric Gales is also on the label. I love Eric Gales’ playing! Eric Gales is an incredible player, good answer! Now, not only have you just released “Behold Electric Guitar” but you also have two other new albums, “Vernon Solos” and “Super Detail Guitar”. Can you tell us a bit about those? PG: Those are bonus CDs that I sold on my PledgeMusic store. “Vernon Solos” is a cassette of several practice sessions when I was in Racer X in the late 80s. I would come to rehearsal early and just play as fast as I could for an hour straight! That’s what I recorded and used to make “Vernon Solos. The other one, “Super Detai” guitar is my isolated guitar track from one of the best shows from the G3 tour around 2007. Neither of these are available for sale now. Outside of your own material you’ve made many guest appearances on many projects by Jason Becker, Ayreon, Neal Morse, Nick Johnston, Jeff Pilson etc… Is there anyone you’d really like to work with that you haven’t? Do you have any other collaborations in the pipeline? PG: I’d love to jam with any great blues/rock guitar player. Angus Young or Johnny Winter, would be amazing to jam with! That would be amazing to witness! When I saw you live you paid tribute to Ronnie James Dio and played “Still I’m Sad”. Was he a big influence on you? Did you know Ronnie or were you just a fan? PG: I met Ronnie very briefly in Japan, where he was sitting in with Deep Purple. He was very nice to me. Of course, I’m a huge fan of his singing, and his music. Excellent! Now, something that wasn’t around back in the 80’s was social media. Platforms such as YouTube have given many guitarists a different kind of career path. Many talented musicians now don’t join bands, or release albums, but instead concentrate on creating instructional content. Do you think this is good for the state of guitar playing or would you rather see them being more creative and producing original music? PG: Playing loud, onstage, with a drummer is so much different than playing into a computer at home. So modern players tend to have a lighter touch. When I teach, I try to get my students to hit the strings hard! Many musicians have goals such as being able to play a certain thing, headline a particular venue, or to release a hit album etc… Have you achieved everything that you wanted to or are there still things that you’re reaching for? PG: I want to play one great blues solo. I want to play well enough where Eric Johnson and John Scofield would think, “I’ll better keep an eye on this guy!” I’d like to write great melodies. Back in 2014 your wife gave birth to your son Marlon Kanzan Gilbert. Now that you’re a family man how has this affected your touring schedules, practice time etc? How do you manage to juggle the responsibilities of both family and music? PG: I drink more coffee! My family has very busy days. But I’m so happy that I can spend time with my son. Of course, I love him like crazy! I hope he will want to learn to play guitar some day. Right now, his favourite thing is “The Hulk.” Maybe I need to get a green guitar. Thanks for your time Paul, it’s greatly appreciated and good luck with the album! Thank you, Interview – Martin Patterson Image on header – Jason Quigley ‘Behold Electric Guitar’ is available May 17th, more details can be found here.  ]]>

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