Keith Richards Discusses The Rolling Stones' Latest Album in 1994 Guitar World Interview
Here's an interview with Keith Richards from the October 1994 issue of Guitar World magazine. To see the Rolling Stones cover -- and all the GW covers from 1994 -- click here.
It’s hump time in Toronto. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and company have rolled into town, ready to begin preparations for this year’s version of the Summer Stones. There are stage models to be examined, promotional campaigns to be mapped out, lighting schemes to be configured.
Oh yeah -- and music to be played.
“We’re getting familiar with playing some of the newer songs and stretching our memories for some of the older ones,” the 50-year-old Richards reports with a gleeful cackle. There’s nothing he likes better than playing, and there’s nobody he likes playing with more than the Stones -- though his solo band, the X-Pensive Winos, rates a pretty strong second.
“The way the shows usually shake down -- it’s kind of like picking tracks for an album. We start playing everything, and you don’t pressure or guide it too much. Some songs kind of leap out and say, ‘Yeah, me this time.’ It always comes out all right.”
These days, things are about as all right in Stonesville as they've been in a long time. The nasty mid-Eighties rift between Richards and Jagger is patched over and, seemingly, forgotten. After years of infighting, bassist Bill Wyman has left the band, replaced by Darryl Jones -- the first new Stone in 19 years. Trusted keyboard hand Chuck Leavell is on hand for the tour, and tickets -- as always -- are selling well, despite a concert market glutted by the high-priced likes of Pink Floyd, the Eagles, Barbara Streisand and the tandem of Elton John and Billy Joel.
Best of all, the new music is good. The Stones' new Voodoo Lounge is a bold, sprawling work that finds the band ignoring the sonic conventions that come with being The Stones. Oh, Voodoo Lounge has its share of Jagger-Richards crankers -- “Love is Strong," "Mean Disposition" -- but the Stones consistently reach for more, employing country touches, funk, blues, Celtic folk, Latin rhythms and lush balladry in the Jagger vocal showcase "Out of Tears" to elevate Voodoo Lounge.
"I wanted them to make the album they felt like making," says co-producer Don Was, who worked with the Stones in Ireland and Los Angeles. "My real agenda was that they write up to the level they're capable of, which really coincided with what they were thinking.
"It's easy to lapse into self-imitation; when you' re as good as they are, you can fake your way through it pretty good. They didn't want that this time."
Was, not one given to understatement, finds Richards' musicianship worthy of heavy praise. "I learned more about music working with this guy for five or six months than I could in years' worth of the Berklee School of Music," Was says. "There's certainly this conception of Keith being this drug-burnout, Spinal Tap character. It's wrong. He's a brilliant, vibrant character... a very deep guy who I think may be at the most creative period of his life.
"He plays like a jazz musician -- the way he listens to everything else that's going on and reacts to it and refuses to play organized, set parts all the way through the songs. It's not like he can't remember the parts or won't learn the arrangements; he responds to the moment. That's a really advanced thing for a rock and roll band... and a very generous way for a songwriter to approach his music."
Richards is equally generous in conversation -- cheery, sharing, easygoing. He long ago tired of some subjects -- we know "Satisfaction" came to him in a dream -- but when the subjects are the Stones and rock and roll, it doesn't seem like he'II ever tire of talking.
GUITAR WORLD: Was it different doing a record without Bill?
It's a lot easier than I thought it would be. I figured it would take us a long time; I thought it would be a more difficult process to screw around with the rhythm section. I'm kind of glad in a way that Mick and I left it to Charlie -- wisely, I think -- to name the guy.
Was it an involved audition process?
We played with a lot of good players last year; name the top 25 you can think of and then a few more. I thought life had no more surprises until we got into that! Finally we said "Charlie, for once in 30 years, you're going to be the guy to make the decision." So he went with Darryl -- another Chicago guy, as fate would have it.
I think Don Was was crushed that you didn't pick him.
[laughs] Oh, I don't think so. Actually, Don got involved on this record about the time we'd pretty much decided who it was going to be. The main thing is that Ronnie is happy that, after 19 years, he 's not being called the new boy anymore! [laughs]
What made Darryl so right?
Obviously it had a lot to do with Charlie; as I said to Charlie, "When I call down to the engine room for full steam ahead, I want reciprocation. I want the two engines going." I think the fact is that Charlie comes out of the jazz stable originally, which makes him unique in a way. That's why he swings; he makes rock and roll swing, which is one of the things you're supposed to do but many people have forgotten.
Well, the fact that Darryl spent five years with Miles Davis certainly didn't hurt. Darryl has already gotten fond of saying that the Stones is really a jazz band 'cause we improvise all the time. He tells us, "You cats do more jazz than some jazz cats I've played with." It takes the new boy to tell me I'm actually playing in a jazz band! [laughs]
But Darryl's a smooth player and very fast, and he loves his music. He loves playing with Charlie, too. To me, that's the whole key, to have a rhythm section that clicks really well together.