Keith Richards: Back with a Band
GUITAR WORLD The editors and readers of Guitar World recently decided that you are the most dangerous man in rock.
KEITH RICHARDS [laughs] I’m glad to say I agree with them. Bless their hearts.
GW How did you feel when you first saw Johnny Depp’s characterization of you in Pirates of the Caribbean?
RICHARDS Well, Johnny called me up before the movie came out, ’cause I think he was doing the PR for it. And he said, “Before you see it, you should know…okay, I admit it. I copied you.” He was in front of the game with me. I’ve known Johnny for a few years. Basically, he’s a friend of my son, Marlon, and I met him that way. He has a lovely guitar collection, by the way. He’s got stuff from the 17th, 18th century. First guitar or something. Amazing stuff. He’s a player.
GW Have you done the sequel yet, where you play his father?
RICHARDS I think they’re shooting it now. I can’t really say that much about it. I will tell you that Johnny and I were in L.A. two weeks ago totally dressed up as pirates. So there’s a hint. But at the same time, I don’t know about the ins and outs of scheduling and whether it will actually happen. Jesus, I never worked for Disney before. I never expected to. Mickey Mouse?
GW Talk about strange bedfellows.
RICHARDS So it’s not signed, sealed and delivered. But it is kind of in the air.
GW To what extent is that swaggering character the real Keith Richards?
RICHARDS It depends on what time of day you catch me. It doesn’t swagger so much in the morning.
GW Why were you interested in doing the film?
RICHARDS Shit, I’ll do anything. How difficult is it for me to play a pirate? Just stick a hat on me and a beard. Put on an eye patch and we’re away. Arrrgh! But it’s not necessary to wear all that stuff to be a pirate. Most pirates these days wear suits.
GW Acting has always been more Mick’s department.
RICHARDS You’re probably right.
GW So when Mick and you got together to start work on A Bigger Bang, there was no concerted plan to go back to basics or to strip down, the way the Stones did on Beggars Banquet, for instance?
RICHARDS No. We were kind of strapped for manpower, to tell the truth. Mick and I started putting this together last June. And at that same time we’d just gotten the news that Charlie was diagnosed with throat cancer. Mick and I were looking at each other going, “Well pal, this is it. Okay, you’re on drums and I’ll double on bass.” Thank God it didn’t come to that. But we did start off that way.
GW How many tracks was Charlie able to play on? Just some?
RICHARDS On no, he’s on all of them. But we started off working songs out with Mick on drums. And Mick’s a pretty good drummer, you know? He’s got a wicked backbeat, and luckily he doesn’t have a lot of flash, so he just sticks to the beat. We worked up the songs that way. Then Charlie came back and we were able to say, “Okay, Charlie, it goes like this.” And he came back like a ball of fire. Amazing. I guess he wanted to prove that he was still alive and kicking.
GW If the day ever came—God forbid—that Charlie Watts couldn’t make it, would the Stones go on?
RICHARDS That’s a good ’un. Probably not. As you say, God forbid. But at the same time, Mick and I kind of got over that hurdle this time, and said, “Well, we could still make records...”
GW What was Ronnie’s participation like on this album?
RICHARDS He’s on just about every track. There are a few tracks that Mick and I basically did together with just Charlie, but that’s not unusual.