Ron Wood Discusses Getting Sober and His New Solo Album
GW Slash’s sound on your album is very different from what we’ve come to expect from him. In fact, the two of you sound quite similar a lot of the time.
WOOD Yeah! See, I love all that confusion and craziness. It’s kind of a mutual complement to each other to share a sound, really. It all goes back to the guitar-weaving thing, you know. Slash is a very adaptable player, very melodic. I wanted to tap into that whole side of him. He can go bluesy, reggae-ish, the hard stuff—he can play anything. But people tend to only know him for the hard stuff he does. He’s a very well-rounded and multi-dimensional guitarist.
GW I read something earlier this year about Slash spying on you when he was a child and learning guitar licks from watching you. Is that correct?
WOOD Yeah, he remembers that time probably more than I do. [laughs] But that’s true. He was just a kid, and he’d sort of spy on me and watch me play.
GW But where was this? And how did he come to be around you?
WOOD I think it was in L.A. He was just around, you know? [Slash’s mother was a costume designer for musicians, and his father designed album covers, making them active participants within the popular music scene.] There was so much going on, it’s hard to remember all the details. But I do remember this littlekid being around, and I’d be like, “Hey, come over here, lad. I’ll teach you some things on the guitar.” It was all very harmless. He was a sweet little guy, as I recall. I had no idea he’d go on to become the world-famous Slash!
GW Billy Gibbons is also on a couple of cuts on the new album. On one of them, “I Gotta See,” like Slash, he doesn’t sound like himself—he has a very clean Strat tone. But on “Thing About You,” he most definitely sounds like the Billy Gibbons from ZZ Top that we all know and love. In fact, it’s like you dialed up “Billy Gibbons” on an amp setting.
WOOD Yeah, it’s incredible, isn’t it? Another chameleon. On “I Gotta See,” he played very straight, very subtle, and it was all his idea. He said, “I know what this song needs. It needs a real simple, sweet, percussive guitar line.” And I said, “Perfect!” I think he played a Gibson Firebird on that, and I played a ’55 Strat.
But yeah, when it came time to do “Thing About You,” he really took on the Billy Gibbons sound. What’s interesting is, he gets very bossy when he becomes that Billly Gibbons. He’s like, “No, you play this! Now, this is how this part should go.” He’s a very principled player. He knows what he wants; he knows what a song needs. We kind of clash musically, but I love that. It really gets the juices flowing.”
GW What kind of guitar did he use for “Thing About You”? I would imagine it was a Les Paul.
WOOD Yeah, I think it was. You know, he was just kind of passing through when he came in and cut that, so he might have used one of the guitars I had on hand. I had a whole selection: Gibsons, Fenders, Zemaitises…anything you could want, really.
GW Your guitar collection is undoubtedly quite massive. But did you have a core unit of working guitars for the album?
WOOD I gravitated toward various old Stratocasters, mainly. There were some Gibson and Martin acoustics, of course. I did play a Coral Sitar on the song “100%”—that was a lot of fun. That was about it, really. You can go crazy trying to figure out ways to use all of your guitars on every song. That’s not my style. I just like to get in and capture the essence.
GW I hope you take this as a compliment, but as you age, your singing voice is becoming a combination of Randy Newman and Bob Dylan. Do you hear that?
WOOD Oh, well, thank you! That’s a total compliment. My range isn’t that broad, I realize that, but I think I’ve really figured out how to find the expression in it. I’ve learned how to make my voice work. You know, you do this long enough, you’re bound to figure out a thing or two—hopefully! [laughs]
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