Ex-GN’R Guitarist CLARKE On Band’s Current Lineup: ‘It Doesn’t Sound Like GUNS N’ ROSES To Me’

Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden’s Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with former GUNS N’ ROSES and ROCKSTAR SUPERNOVA guitarist Gilby Clarke. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Metalshrine: How did you end up getting [the call to join GUNS N’ ROSES]? Did you know any of those guys before that?

Gilby: Yeah, I knew all of them! The Hollywood scene was very closed-knit and we all went to each other’s gigs and when I was in CANDY is when I knew the GUNS guys. I knew Axl [Rose, GUNS N’ ROSES singer] when he first came to town and Izzy [Stradlin, then-GUNS N’ ROSES guitarist] was one of my first friends in L.A. and it was just because there was a small group of guys that liked both sides, liked the rock stuff and liked the punk stuff and we would go to both shows and that’s the way Izzy was. I’d run into him at a GERMS concert and I’d also run into him at THE PLASTMATICS. It was just a way of us having a lot of things in common. Slash [then-GUNS N’ ROSES guitarist] was more like a metal guy. We always saw him backstage and he’d be back there drinking and trying to grab your guitar and it was like, “Go get your own guitar!” (laughs) We were all part of the local scene, so yeah, I did know all of them. Even Matt [Sorum, drums]! I knew Matt really well, too.

Metalshrine: Coming from KILL FOR THRILLS and the you do this huge tour that goes on for three years, when it’s on that level and the craziness that goes with it, is it like you’re in a world of its own and everything else stops existing and laws and rules don’t apply anymore?

Gilby: I gotta tell you, that’s true! And I’ll tell you for a lot of reasons. One of the main reasons is when you’re on a tour, you are in your own world. I mean, you’re with the same 20 people for two and a half years years — every single day, hotels, eating together, going out together — and time kind of stops, because we’re doing the same thing every day. We’re traveling, checking into hotels, playing a show, travel, checking into hotels, playing a show, but the rest of the world around you is going on and going about their business. Work, having children, so when you come back into town… Usually you’d play for two or three months and then come back for two weeks and take a break. Everything changes around you, but you don’t because time is standing still and also within that world, there are no rules, because that’s all we do. Our job is to play those three hours every night and that’s it! Get there, play the show, so you have a lot of freedom and you definitely take advantage of having no rules. So I agree. What you said is actually true.

Metalshrine: Did you ever feel like, during those three years, that there were times when it got out of hand?

Gilby: Well, it always got out of hand! (laughs) But also, my experience is different from if you would ask Slash, Duff or Axl because remember, I was also in two bands that weren’t successful, so when I got that call I said to myself, “I’m going to enjoy this, because I know this isn’t easy. This is hard.” And when you have the success it’s supposed to be fun. I have a different experience than they do. For them it was the first band. They think it happens to everybody. (laughs) That it’s easy. It’s not easy! So I definitely enjoyed it differently.

Metalshrine: What’s your take on Axl Rose and the band GUNS N’ ROSES today?

Gilby: As it stands? Well, knowing Axl and knowing Axl 20 years ago and knowing what he wanted to do, I would assume that he’s a happy guy. This is, [from] what he explained to me, what he wanted the band to be. When we had our what I call a disagreement, he wanted to take the band in a new direction. He wanted to bring in lots of people and this is what he envisioned. I assume he is happy. Is it the kind of music that I enjoy? Some of it, some of it. I think it’s creative and I think it’s what music is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be original and creative and I think it is all those things. It’s just, to me, when I think of GUNS N’ ROSES, it doesn’t sound like GUNS N’ ROSES to me. But as I say, if this was an Axl Rose album, it’d be fantastic, because it’s good music. It is! I can’t say it’s not good music.

Metalshrine: What’s it like making records these days? I read about Tommy Lee who said that there’s no point in making records anymore, because everybody just wants one song.

Gilby: true! Well, I agree with him in that sense. I do agree with “why make a record?” Like, why make 10 or 12 songs? It’s kind of going back to like in the ’60s where people just made singles, and look, is that a good or bad thing? I don’t know. It’s easier. I think making music is a lot easier than it ever has been and I think that you see a wide variety. I think you see some real creative music and I think you see some real narrow, shitty, not-creative music. All of these things that are available to us are tools. These are tools that THE BEATLES would’ve used if they had them, THE ROLLING STONES and Elvis. It’s just a matter of using a tool, but you still have to be creative and write a song.

Read the entire interview from Metalshrine.