Lynyrd Skynyrd: Gimme Back My Bullets
GW Gary, Gregg Allman told me that when the Allmans were doing their stand at the Beacon Theatre here in New York last March, one night he looked down the line of guitarists and thought, Damn, I’m the only one left. How often do you feel like that?
ROSSINGTON Pretty regularly, but I just thank God I’m still here and that people still come to hear us and like the music. When Ronnie, Allen [Collins] and I started out this band, we just had a dream to share our music, to get in a really big band and make the world listen. We did it, and I’m just carrying that on.
GW Do you feel an obligation to the fans and even to history to keep Skynyrd going, rather than just saying, “Screw this. I’m in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Now I’m hanging it up and going fishing”?
ROSSINGTON Well, yeah. That’s what I’m doing it for—to keep the music going, and let people hear our music and the songs. I feel like we have a responsibility to them and to the music itself. And there’s a new generation of Skynyrd fans, too and we’re playing for them, as well.
I have felt like hanging it up sometimes, because it’s hard out on the road. But we don’t tour as much as we used to, and I always get home after a while. We have two little baby grandkids now that take up all our time when we’re off, so for me it’s the best of both worlds. I don’t have any reason to quit. Where Skynyrd is coming from is bigger than any of us. We just keep going.
MEDLOCKE In the middle of recording this album, we lost our bassist, Ean Evans, and Billy Powell, one of our best friends, a brother, one of the original guys who had been with us all those years. We were at a point where we didn’t know what we wanted to do. We thought that maybe we should call it a day. But you’ve got an obligation to the fans, the people who have been there all those years. And we are three generations deep into fans, just like we sing on [the God & Guns track] “Skynyrd Nation,” and we owe it to them, to give them something. We decided to finish the record and go forward.
GW Bob Marlette gave you guys a very modern sound. Did you have to adapt the way you played or recorded from what you have done all these years?
ROSSINGTON Yes and no. We did it all digitally and used Pro Tools, but when it came time to recording guitars and basic tracks, we did it like we always have. Those are all real tube amps. We took our time, tried a million different amp-and-guitar combinations, found the sounds we wanted and played our parts.
MEDLOCKE I really took my time to get a great sound, and Bob helped me come up with a cool approach to my tone. I’ve got a few great old Marshalls that I use live: ’71 and ’72 heads and an old combo with 2x12s. When I did the heavy tracks with drop tunings, I used both heads into different cabinets and then ran into the Marshall combo with a totally clean sound. I got different tones on all three, and they were mixed together for one huge sound. I tracked using either my new Floyd Rose–equipped, hollowed-out center Les Pauls, which the Gibson Custom Shop has made me, or my old Black Beauty. Once I got a solid rhythm track, I would come back and use an old Tele that has a real pristine ping on the top end and run it through the same amp setup and run another rhythm track. Bob mixed it all together to form the basic tracks for most songs, and it just sounded huge.
GW Could any other band have a range of guests on an album that stretches from country Dobro master Jerry Douglas to metalhead Rob Zombie?
ROSSINGTON [laughs] I don’t know. That’s two pretty wild bookends. Musicians respect each other if they think one another are good. We didn’t all get in the same room and become buddies, but everybody was on the same page. Jerry is a friend of ours and is so great. He’s the best Dobro player there is. I called him up and asked him to come in, and he laid down his tracks in one or two takes, and we all watched him in awe. He played Dobro on “God & Guns” and electric slide on “Unwrite This Song.” Rob came in because he was a friend of Doug Marlette and John5, and he did some really cool vocal tracks on the song “Floyd.”
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