Journeyman axe-slinger Gilby Clarke has toured and recorded with artists as diverse as Guns N’ Roses, Heart, MC5 and Nancy Sinatra. He’s just released his first solo album in 20 years, The Gospel Truth, a collection of hard-rocking, instant rock ’n’ roll classics.
Your last solo album, Swag, came out in 2001. Why such a long gap?
“I actually never set out to be a solo artist; it was just something I did in my spare time. I had songs, I made a record, then another. As time went on, I started getting a lot of live dates as a solo artist and never really considered that I needed to make a record every couple of years. But then I just thought, goddamn it, you have to make records, it’s the creative part of who you are.“
You did a fine job producing the album. How’d you get such a great guitar sound?
“On the left channel I run my Marshall JMP 50 with my black Les Paul or my mint ’59 Les Paul Junior. I usually run them through a SoloDallas Schaffer Replica into the Marshall. On the right side it’s predominantly my Vox AC30, with either a Duesenberg or my Japanese Zemaitis with Gretsch Filter'Tron pickups. I’m a big believer in doubling guitar parts with a different amp and guitar; it’s not just a bigger sound – it gives so much more separation, especially when you’re working with Pro Tools.“
Your new album might just be the hardest-rocking set in your catalog. Would you say there’s not enough rock ’n’ roll in the world these days?
“I couldn’t agree with you more. There was a lot more diversity in the songs on my early records, but we’re in a different world now where a country station won’t play a rock track – even though it might have a country vibe. If you’re not an artist in a certain genre, the programs tend to shy away from something you might do in a particular vein, so it makes a lot more sense to me to make a straight-ahead rock ’n’ roll record.“
Where would you say you’re coming from as a guitarist?
“When I started, it was Kiss, Aerosmith and Zeppelin. After that I had an English girlfriend who turned me on to the Clash – and everything changed. I started going backwards from there to the Pretenders and Generation X, right back to David Bowie and T. Rex. Jimmy Page and Rick Derringer were the two biggest guys for me, guitar-wise.“
I always say rock ’n’ roll is the elixir of youth. You barely seem to have aged in 20 years. Would you subscribe to this theory?
“I agree. It is amazing, because I’m 58 and when I go back to see my friends who are the same age it seems like they’re all getting on a bit. [Laughs] I do have to dye my hair, though. [Laughs] Rock ’n’ roll definitely keeps you young; it’s the freedom to be yourself and not follow the same rules as everybody else.“
- The Gospel Truth is out now via Golden Robot.