“I’ve realized that, as the years have gone on, I have become completely impatient with the demo process. And that’s a good thing, because that approach helped to make this new record sound really alive and in-the-moment. We captured these songs at warp speed and with a tremendous spirit of spontaneity and attitude.”
Paul Gilbert is discussing his brand-new, blazing hot release of all original material, I Can Destroy, which is the fourteenth solo release (or eighteenth, including Japanese releases) from the world-class guitarist. Gilbert, back in the mid Eighties as the leader of Racer X, reached international acclaim with two essential fretboard-scorching albums, Street Lethal and Second Heat.
He followed that up with the formation of the chart-topping band Mr. Big (featuring bass virtuoso Billy Sheehan), with whom he released six albums, including 1991’s Lean Into it, which included the Number One hit “To Be with You.”
Gilbert, longtime denizen of Los Angeles and now relocated to Portland, Oregon, says that for this record, as well as its predecessor, Stone Pushing Uphill Man, he had a lot of trepidation about the material. “For the last record,” he says, “I solved the issue of worrying about the tunes by focusing on some unusual cover songs, like Aerosmith’s ‘Back in the Saddle,’ Elton John’s ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and the Police’s ‘Murder By Numbers.’ This time I knew I needed to write all new original music.
“As daunting as that was, there were two things that made it happen: I had a three-week tour of Italy where I spent a large portion of the time stuck traveling in a car, so I used that time to write tons of lyrics that later provided the seeds to the songs. The other essential element was that I put together a band of really great, supportive people. I’d show up at rehearsal with these little shards of musical and lyrical ideas, and within five minutes, we’d have something that sounded real.” Paul’s band on I Can Destroy includes Freddie Nelson and Tony Spinner on guitars, Kevin Chown on bass and Thomas Lang on drums.
Another source of songwriting inspiration came from the presence of producer Kevin Shirley (Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Dream Theater), whom Gilbert first worked with for the Mr. Big album What If… “When I worked with Kevin on that album, we pretty much would do a song a day, which is very fast by most people’s standards,” says Gilbert. “For this project, when we finished the first song the first day, Kevin said, ‘Hey, let’s cut another one!’ and I thought, Okay! Next thing I knew, two songs a day became the norm, and working that quickly ended up providing great momentum for the whole project.”
Gilbert’s dazzling guitar work is at the center of a group of songs that vary stylistically from the Iron Maiden/Judas Priest vibe of the title track, to the Thin Lizzy/Boston–like “Knocking on a Locked Door” and “One Woman Too Many,” to the Steely Dan–flavored strains of “I Will Be Remembered.”
Along with his spring/summer tour, Gilbert will also once again host his “Great Guitar Escape” guitar camp July 25–29 at Cambria Pines Lodge in California. You can sign up at greatguitarescape.com.