Paul Gilbert (en anglais)
U-zine.org, webzine musical metal actif entre 2004 et 2015. Fermé en 2015 suite à sa fusion avec 2Guys1TV, ses articles (chroniques, live-report, interview, dossiers, ...) sont désormais disponibles directement sur Horns Up via ce compte !
A few weeks after Vibrato came out, Paul Gilbert kindly accepted to answer some questions for us.
He talks about his album, his career, his love for music and of course France.
First of all, we would like to thank you for giving us some of your time. How do you feel right now with this new album coming out?
PG : I feel excited about the guitar. I keep making new discoveries, and I love every second that I can play and make new sounds that I’ve never made before.
We are a metal webzine. Therefore, I have to ask you a question about your favorite metal bands. If you had to choose one band or one person to represent each of the following to remain, who would that be and why?
- Favorite metal band :
PG : Everybody from 1967 to 1982! When I was growing up, bands like Van Halen, Rush, Led Zeppelin, and AC/DC were considered to be heavy metal. Things got a bit heavier in the 80s. That’s when I started getting into Iron Maiden, Saxon, UFO, Judas Priest, Loudness, and Accept. Every band had something good. I saw Van Halen live several times in the 80s, and they were the most exciting. I saw UFO, and they had the best live sound. I saw Ozzy with Randy Rhoads, and Randy had the best guitar sound. Rush had the best production, and the best drum fills. And Saxon was great overall… a great singer, great songs, and the pure sound of metal. If I had to pick one, I’d say Van Halen, just because Eddie was such a big influence on me at the time.
- Favorite metal album:
PG : That’s another tough question. Rainbow “Rising”, Judas Priest “Screaming for Vengeance”, Accept “Balls to the Wall”… and later stuff like Queensryche’s “Operation Mindcrime” or King’s X’s “Gretchen Goes to Nebraska” are all favorites of mine. I’m just going to pick the first one that comes to mind… Dio! “Holy Diver.” That one is great.
- Favorite metal guitar player:
PG: I saw Van Halen in 1979, Pat Travers in 1980, Alex Lifeson with Rush in 1981, Randy Rhoads with Ozzy in 1982, and Yngwie Malmsteen with Alcatrazz in 1983. Those concerts all had a huge impact on me. Eddie Van Halen is the obvious answer, but since I’ve already chosen Van Halen as my favorite band, I’ll choose someone else… Frank Marino! I never saw Frank Marino live until recently, but I listened the live Mahogany Rush album so much when I was a kid. His style had a huge influence on me. I’m pretty sure the Frank doesn’t consider himself to be a metal guitar player, but at the time that’s how I thought about him. And he certainly plays with intensity to match anyone.
- Favorite metal solo:
PG: “Mississippi Queen” by Mountain. That is the first heavy metal song that I ever heard. I’ve learned to play a lot of solos over the years, and I forget how to play most of them. But the solo in “Mississippi Queen” always stays with me. Leslie West has his roots in blues so his vibrato is some of the best, but his tone and attack are giving birth to heavy metal in that song.
- Favorite hair style (It counts!):
PG: Some combination of Marc Bolan… who really didn’t sound metal, but looked it… and Paul Stanley. I really wanted giant curly hair, but mine never grew that way. Perms worked for a while, but finally I just decided to cut it off. I wish I could “practice” hair and make it better, the same way that I can practice guitar!
Questions related to the album Vibrato
Your last solo album, Vibrato went out a few weeks ago. What feedback from the fans do you have?
PG: I’ve gotten some great e-mails, but the real test will be playing the songs live. That is happening in 2013, and I’m excited to play!
Vibrato contains lots of 70's funk elements. After a metal-oriented Get out of my yard and a bluesy Fuzz Universe, did you want to get into new universes?
PG: I just want to become more musical and more intelligent. I’m basically a self-taught metal guitar player who went to music school for one year. If I were a brain surgeon... no one would hire me! Most professions, even musical professions like being a classical pianist, require years of study under the guidance of expert teachers. I’ve practiced for long hours every since I was a kid, but I since I was self-taught, I tended to stay in a very narrow area of music. My technique became very good, but my knowledge of chords, and of songwriting and arranging were very primitive for a long time. My year as a student at GIT taught me so much, but it’s taken a long time before I could start applying a lot of this knowledge. I’m just starting to understand some of the more complex things now. And it’s very exciting to me! I’m finally playing altered dominant chords, using them in my songs, and really hearing them. These new chords I’ve been using open up so many new solo possibilities. 70s funk is one of the styles that uses these more complex chords, and I certainly wrote some syncopated rhythmic lines, which is how funk grooves are built... like the riff in “Vibrato.” Overall, I’m just having a great time discovering new things.
Is it important for you to express yourself in multiple styles?
PG: I don’t try to control it. If I have a musical idea, I just follow it and see where it goes. And every idea usually goes somewhere different.
What did you want it to express that was different from your other albums?
PG: Most of the songs that I’ve written before with Racer X or Mr. Big have relatively short solos. I wanted to write some songs with long solos! I’m finally feeling more confidence as an improviser, so I’ve been craving more musical space to work in. Besides that, I just wanted enjoy the writing process. Sometimes that has been grueling in the past, and this time I forced myself to have a good time. And I did!
Can you tell us more about the recoding process and especially of the persons who worked with you? Especially Emi's work who seems to be more and more involve and brings something really special to your music.
PG: Thomas Lang played drums. He has a rock drum school with the same company where I do my online rock guitar school. He’s also one of the best drummers in the world. I really enjoyed his playing. Kelly LeMieux played bass. Kelly plays with the well-known pop-punk band, Goldfinger. He’s got great tone, energy, and technique. Emi played keyboards. She’s been playing piano since she was three years old, and she’s done about 200 live shows with me in the last few years, so has both great technique and onstage rock experience. I wanted to have some conversational elements in the solos, so it was great to trade back and forth with her.
Lyrically, Atmosphere On The Moon is one of the greatest songs you've ever written. What was your mindset when you wrote it?
I wrote it so quickly… I can barely remember! I started off by listening to some “Philadelphia Soul” style music. Things like Todd Rundgren, Daryl Hall, and older stuff like The Delfonics. This got me playing lots of those groovy slash chords. The opening of the song has G/A, F/G, and D/E. Slash chords everywhere! The lyrics are actually pretty cynical and quite funny… to me. Ah, now I’m remembering where it started. I was thinking of when big celebrities start talking about “the children.” It can be in almost any context, and if a celebrity starts talking about “the children” it just makes me cringe. I sometimes think that when someone is bored with their own life, they start wanting to control other people’s lives. And who better to control than… “the children”! So I started writing the line in the chorus “So I’m asking all the children” as a mockery of when celebrities go on television and try to make themselves feel good… or least cure their own boredom… by naively promoting causes involving “the children.” From this seed grew the song. I started to think about what I might want young people to do. Most celebrities want them to vote or to volunteer for something. I want them to stop listening to that horrible auto-tuned music! I want them care about science and make huge technological advances. That’s where I make the reference to “standing on the shoulders” of Galileo. And one of those technologies could put an atmosphere on the moon, so I can get away from the earth and all the war, unfairness, and hip-hop dancing. I think that would be much more interesting than studying which one of the lousy political candidates you should vote for. So the song does have a positive message. It promotes science as a way to improve life, and music performed by human beings as something of value. And the cynical parts of it allow me to laugh at things that annoy me.
Do you restrain yourself when you write your songs? Any topic you don't want to deal with?
PG: I’m really just starting to get comfortable with lyric writing. That’s because I’m finally getting comfortable as a thinker. I’m still a much better guitar player than I am anything else, but I like guitar playing to be in the context of a song, so that means I’ve got to deal with many other musical elements, and lyrics is one of them. But the music is still my biggest priority. The meaning of the lyrics feeds a completely different part of the brain. Music feeds the emotions directly. But since the lyrics are there, I try to have fun with them or have them mean something to me.
You are one of the most productive guitar player with nearly one album per year or every two year. How do you explain this hunger of playing?
PG: I like being employed! I always wanted to be a rock musician, so if there is an opportunity to do it, I’m going to do it!
How do you manage your personal life with that tremendous professional activity (Tour with Mr. Big, Solo tour, albums, clinics etc.)?
PG: I don’t manage my personal life very well. I have friends that I’d really like to see, and I rarely see them. I rarely see my mom, my dad, or my sister. I’d like to have a cat someday, but I don’t have the time. Fortunately, I live and work with Emi, so I can see her often. And I have a great time with the students at my online school, but that’s just via the computer. But I am musician. My music has been my best friend for as long as I can remember. I can always rely on my guitar. The most I give to it, the more it gives back. But I should go home and visit my dad more often.
Question related to the guitar playing
As a guitar player, I need to ask you some questions about your gear and your technique. Did you use some new gear on this record?
PG: I used a few of my Ibanez Fireman guitars. The red FRM100, and my original custom shop korina Fireman and cherry wood Fireman. I also used an Ibanez PGM401 modified with a Wilkinson-Gotoh tremolo bridge, and a vintage Ibanez semi-hollow guitar from the 70s. For pedals, I used an Empress Compressor into a Foxrox Octron into a Lehle P-Split and out to two MXR script Phase 90s. These went to two Marshall amps. A 2061x and a 1987x. I used an assortment of overdrive pedals, depending on the song and my mood. My Majik Box Fuzz Universe, an Ibanez Tube Screamer, a Way Huge Green Rhino, and an Xotic Effects AC Booster.
Each album has a great diversity of sounds, of riffs... do you feel like you are still evolving in your guitar playing?
PG: I’m learning more than I ever have! It really helps me to teach guitar. When I teach, it makes me analyze the students’ playing, and my own playing. I discover things this way that I would not find otherwise. I’m so much more aware of rhythm, tone, and harmony than I’ve ever been. And I just love to play.
Lots of French metal heads knows you thanks to your guitar clinics or your teaching videos online. Is teaching something really important for you?
PG: I love teaching. I went to GIT earlier this year and gave more than 100 private lessons, so I could prepare the course for my online school. My school has been open for about 6 months now. You wouldn’t believe how much people are improving. I had a guy play the crazy arpeggio part in my song “Norwegian Cowbell” yesterday. I had been helping him learn it in steps. It took him about two months, and yesterday he played it perfectly. Not only was it fast, but his tone was great, his timing was excellent, his vibrato was cool… all the elements were there. He was a good player to begin with, but he really struggled with this piece at first, so I was really happy that I could help him get it. If you want to check out my school, just Google, “Paul Gilbert Artistworks.”
In 2010, you played at the Trabendo in Paris just after the release of Fuzz Universe. You played some cover including Little Wing. Do you have other covers in mind? Is this a way to thank all guitarists that influenced you?
PG: Playing a cover song is a way to get closer to the music. I love listening to music, but when I actually play or sing a song, I feel more deeply connected. It’s like turning on the radio, and somehow crawling inside of it.
Paul Gilbert and France
In 2011, you played with Mr. Big at Hellfest open air. How was this experience? Do you like French crowds?
PG: I like audiences that like music. And French ones certainly do! I perform all over the world, and the people who come to the shows are music fans. They might be French music fans, or Swiss music fans, or Japanese music fans, or Indonesian music fans… So the locations might be different, but the people have a similar way of reacting. Of course, I’m a music fan too.
Are you going to tour Europe in the upcoming months?
PG: My booking agent is working on it now. I can’t wait! I’ve got so many new things to play.
One question that really matters: what do you think of French food, wine (and women)?
PG: I’m most familiar with the food, which is delicious. I don’t drink much wine, but what I’ve tried has been great, and I can only look at the women… and not for too long…. It’s not polite to stare… but they seem wonderful. Emi really loves France too.
One last question… Can you say something (in French!) to your French fans?
Merci Beaucoup! Laissez faire! And I like Zaz!
I would like to thank Paul Gilbert, Roger of Replica Records and Hraesvelg.