Catching Up With Rory

Ace Irish guitarist Rory Gallagher has been out of the limelight for too long. Metal Hammer catches up with him.

Rory Gallagher has survived 20 years in the music biz with his integrity intact, a fact which becomes more surprising the more you think about it. Rory has stuck with the kind of music he loves and believes in, utterly indifferent to the fickle winds of fashion and commercially. He has resolutely refused to put his undoubted fretboard wizardry at the service of any gross multi-national organizations ( i.e. big name groups) preferring instead a career which, while it may become lower in profile, continues to produce higher returns in satisfaction.

The enduring image of Rory is of a be-denimed sporting of one of an endless series of dashing lumberjack shirts, hair swirling and sidboards bristling with blues power. As Rory himself commented ; "I'd come on stage in black pants and a plain shirt, then I'd read a review which said I was wearing denim and a checked shirt." Of course, the reason Rory wears these clothes is because he feels comfortable in them. There is no image building involved in the same way he plays the music he does because he likes it.  So say hello to Rory Gallagher, a thoroughly down to earth chap. Rory's profile as far as records go has been pretty low over the last couple of years. Metal Hammer decided to catch up with the original guitar hero and find out what's been going on.

Apart from doing his own work he had been mixing live tracks for a "Self Aid" album for the relief of unemployment in Ireland. He had also been keeping up a pretty punishing live schedule all over Europe...and there was also a new album that has been an eternity in the making.

"it's been four years or so since I've made an album" said Rory emphasizing the point. "During that time, I've made a few appearances on other people's albums, like Box of Frogs. I started my own album way back, and then I totally shelved at least half of it. I tend to do that every four albums.........start throwing tapes away and that sort of thing. "

There was also the, er, minor distraction of Rory being without a record deal, intentional though. He wants to do a deal with a small label.

"They understand what I'm about. It's not going to kill me if the record doesn't sell a million and I can't do all these miming sessions for TV just to suit some Goliath label. I'm just trying to make some music, record it and put it out."

"The music on the new album is a real mixture. What I'm trying to do is get a roots sound. I want it to sound like it was recorded for Chess or Sun, but at the same time having a 1987 feel. It's hell trying to get the two together because I hate pop rock or pop blues. I want to get the feel just right.

On one track, I've got double tracked acoustic guitar, with Lou Martin on piano, but the rest of the material is fairly gutsy. The only non-original material on the record is "Don't Start To Talking", a Sonny Boy Williamson tune. My favourite song is called "Loan Shark Blues" which is in the John Lee Hooker mold. It's got one electric guitar, one acoustic and rimshot percussion rather than drums."

The personnel on the album are fairly much the same as before: Brendan O'Neil on drums, Gerry McAvoy ( bass) and Lou Martin (piano) with Mark Feltham on harmonica and John Cooke on keyboards. Rory also dabble in a bit of sax for the first time since his Taste days and he'll even admit to losing his touch a bit.

Gallagher and band have played in practically every major venue in the rock world. What sort of players would entice him to go and see their show?

"In general, I still listen to folk players and a lot of rock, but in recent times, I've enjoyed the Fabulous Thunderbirds and George Thorogood, particularly the tone of his guitar. I'm still very keen on John Hammond and also Brian Setzer, the ex-Stray Cats guitarist. Robert Cray's a very slick player,  a bit of a late beginner, but I hope he doesn't get any smoother than he now. I like guitar players who can stay primitive, but also be technically accomplished. There's a glut of people around at the moment who are super slick, like Eddie Van Halen, but there aren't many who can retain that garage feel like the guy in the Ramones or Keith Richards, who has still got that obnoxious, juvenile feel"

"I've always placed a bit of importance on rhythm playing in my own approach and I appreciate others who combine rhythm and solo work like Pete Townsend, Wilko Johnson and John Mayo, who replaced Wilko in the Feelgoods. I feel that musical trends have come full circle to an extent, in that people are getting interested in real players and real drums again, and not so much in exploding stages."

"As far as the metal scene goes, I have no idea what's going on. I've always rated Michael Schenker as a guitarist, but I'd love to see him doing some Albert King material, for example, rather than always playing with a singer who is trying to sound like Paul Rodgers. But I'd still rather listen to metal than to disco or pop. It's only when it gets dressed up a bit too much that I don't like it."

But surely Taste were one of the prototypes for the heavy metal explosion?

"I wouldn't say we were metallic, but we were making a big sound out of very little. We didn't go for distortion- I always aimed for a semi-clean sound with a bit of dirt on the end, rather than just a big Flying V type sound. But we certainly got some good aggression going on some of the tracks, even on a couple of singles that we put out, particularly "Blister On The Moon", which still stands up today."

Rory is renowned for his appetite for roadwork. Does this still hold ot has it waned with the years?

"Obviously, it was different in the early days when you had three bands sharing a dressing room or no dressing room at all, or changing in a van- sometimes not changing at all. We toured with one band in Germany who demanded the marrow from a certain sort of deer in the Black Forest, but we're not like that. Eddie Cochran didn't get any of that , you know. But to be honest, after a long drive or a flight, it's nice if they can lay on a sandwich and a decent drink, even a sofa in the room and a toilet. But we don't demand live octopuses or kangaroos or anything like that."

And the future?

"I'll keep on playing. Every day, I play records at home or play some guitar and still don't feel I've achieved as much as I could have done on the playing and recording level. The minute I feel anywhere near content, I hear something on a record or go and see a certain act and I think.......ahhh. I feel like I've only been at it for about five years. But the the older you get, the more you find new angles on things, maybe play them a different way, but you still want to keep the feeling of a crazy 16-year-old when you get down to the rhythm. I'm certainly not satisfied or fed up. No way."

Peter Clark

This article comes from a 1987 issue of Metal Hammer.
Thanks to Dino McGartland for passing it along.
The background is a capture from Marquee '72 by donman, mutated by roryfan
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