Radio Clyde Interview
A Tom Russell interview recorded by
Radio Clyde as Rory finished his sound check at
The Pavilion Theatre - Glasgow October 4th 1987
during the Defender tour

I asked Rory, first of all, it seemed to be a long long time since he'd played Glasgow. My first question for Rory was

Rory, just how long is it, since you last played Glasgow?

RG - "Ah, I think it's about four years. We did play two dates in Scotland last year, or three in fact, we did Aberdeen, Edinburgh, and Ayr, and they were the only dates we did in this part of the world for about four years. We've mainly been working in Germany, Spain, France, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and two trips to America. And then we tried to record the album, in between that, or, in fact, re-record the album. We recorded 20 songs, almost twice over, so that was my 'blue period' then, the full works (laughs). So it's great to be back in Glasgow. We haven't played here (*The Pavilion) before, we used to play across the road (*The Apollo), as you know, but I'm looking forward to tonight, we'll see how it goes."

It's obviously a lot smaller than the Apollo, but, it's perhaps cosier?

RG - "It's cosier, yeah, we have to just adjust our playing... We have done theatres like this before, it can be great for the blues stuff, and the acoustic stuff, but just be careful that you don't... break the plaster with the volume and so on. We like to rock out a bit here and there, but, given the set we're doing at the moment, it should be fine. We're just working on the lights and the buzzes and all, that we get off amplifiers, but, on the night it'll be ok... I hope."

You were sound-checking there as I was waiting to talk to you, and you did that acoustic, is it 'Lonesome Cowboy' it's called?

RG - "Out On The Western Plain, yeah... when I was a cowboy."

Fabulous, it sounded excellent, in the theatre there.

RG - "Well, it's probably ideal for that kind of music really, cos it's... because of the plaster, and the wood, and everything else, you're not playing in a big concrete room, you know, or with a lot of metal in it. It's ideal for that... and a wooden stage... It'll be great for Louden, Louden Wainwright who's playing here tonight. By the same token, the beauty of it, with the two galleries, you know, the people feel very close, so it could be almost a club feeling, so it might suit us very well, you know?"

It's an unusual sort of evening tonight, Louden Wainwright being on about 7 O'clock, and you coming on about 10. Is it a package tour, or is it two totally separate shows?

RG - "Two separate shows. We have the same agent at the moment, I didn't know Louden was here, in fact I didn't know.. I thought we were on at 8 O'clock, to be honest with you, but, y'know, the itinerary keeps getting adjusted and all that.. But I've crossed paths with Louden once or twice in the past, and I like him, so we're gonna try and catch some of his set, and (laughs) he might suffer some of ours, so we'll see."

The tour started just Friday night, at Newcastle, and then the Edinburgh Playhouse last night, how was Edinburgh?

RG - "It was fine really, it was grand. It's quite a big place that, the stage was very wide, but we had a good turnout, and we had a good... oh and we played a long set, we didn't have a support act so it was like, uh... trying to please people who wanted to hear new stuff, and, in between, the old stuff, so we did the best blend we could, you know?"

It's obviously going to be a long one tonight as well, if you're 'in the mood'?

RG - "Mmm.. well, if people like it, I'd stay there all night, y'know, but you have to be careful that you don't, y'know, wear people out. But I'm actually happier to play at 10 o'clock at night than, for instance, in Edinburgh we were onstage at 8 o'clock or something... and it's not really my time of the night, y'know (laughs), the nearer to midnight the better for me, y'know, the werewolf time."

russell.jpgWe mentioned right at the start that it's been a while since you've been out on tour, a proper tour, it's even longer since the last LP, There's a lot that's obviously happened, between Jinx on Chrysalis, and the new LP Defender. Firstly, what happened with Chrysalis?

RG - "Well we finished the contract with them, which was, we gave them six albums, and um.. we just moved on, y'know? They... Chrysalis developed into another kind of label, as you know, from.....  when we signed with them, they were... we blended well together, let's put it that way. But they developed into another kind of thing. So, then we approached different other people, and started working on the album, and we ended up with Demon, who are a lot more... in our kind of, neck of the woods really, cos we're not competing with... y'know, big pop names or anything else. We're just delivering what we think is good music, and the nice thing is Demon has, kind of,  got a nice... they've got trust in the artist, they give you artistic freedom, so far. So, y'know, we had some good times with Chrysalis, but, y'know, it's as well to move on anyway. So, that's the way it went, you know?"

And you again mentioned earlier on, that... the 20-odd songs for the new LP, you recorded them over and over again. Why did it take so long?

RG - "Well, first of all, we nearly signed with one or two other labels, and we had deadlines semi-set, and uh, things fell down, on legal grounds, or the terms or whatever, and then we were out on the road, for two American tours, as I was saying, and... the next thing, you'd get back to London or wherever, and you'd listen to the tapes, and you'd say 'Oh to hell with it, we'll start again'. I do this every couple of albums I'm afraid, but the next thing, you've a terrible, um... the fans start wondering if you've given up on them, or they've given up on you, or whatever. But... it's better to have 20 songs, than to have 8 songs, and be scraping up the last two. But we simply.. just changed the keys, changed the rhythms, changed the studio, and, y'know, I hate to use the expression.. we really went... y'know, really hell-bent on getting it... making it the best album we'd ever done... and the longer the gap, the more intent we were on getting it really... a prime album, and, not connected with the past albums really, but just as a new start, really, a new, fresh beginning, really."

Do you think it is the best album you've ever done?

RG - " I think so, yeah... I'm sure some of the followers will say, well... I mean we've had great moments on different albums and so on and so forth, but I mean it's... you know, I think's my favourite album, and I don't just say that  because it's the new one, but, because of personal reasons and whatever else, it's the toughest album we've done, it's the most honest album we've done, whatever that means, but it's... it does stand up in court, you know?

Why did you call it Defender?

RG - "Well, the album was gonna be called Loanshark Blues, which is my favourite track on the album, and  I was defendercover.jpg stuck with that, for a long while, but then, in the last... the eleventh hour, I was reading the back of an LP I have at home, by Billy Boy Arnold, who was a singer/harmonica player, who had a couple of great blues hits way back when, but I read on the back of the sleeve, in the sleeve notes, that he sold a newspaper, or newsletter, called Defender, in Chicago, when he was 10 or 11, to get enough money to buy harmonicas, in a pawnshop. And the name just stood out, and... added to the fact that there was quite a direct linking up with the blues roots, whatever that is, on this album, even though there are a lot of rock tracks and other influences, but it's pretty much a blues tone to the album, and Defender just hit me in the face, and I went with that, y'know?"

How aware are you of the fact that in the last... certainly in the last year or so, blues seems to be making a comeback?

RG - "It does, thank God! Because of, well, say the Thunderbyrds, Robert Cray, um... Los Lobos do a few blues tracks, and uh.. Stevie Ray Vaughan, I mean obviously I'm aware... but there are other people like John Hammond who keep playing blues, and, obviously Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and all those greats. But, what's irritating for me is, particularly with some people, y'know, on the Continent, they say 'Oh, you've gone back to the blues because you see all these other people being successful', and I say, I beg your pardon, I mean, I've been playing blues, and  other things, over the years, and... they think I've actually calculated this, which is... hard to stomach, but that's the way it is, y'know?"
No, but I'm delighted, I mean if... if the Thunderbyrds can get into the charts in America, and if Robert Cray is, you know, getting a blues audience, and, more important, getting black audiences in America into the blues again, cos he's 'hip' in inverted commas now... Cos that's the problem with the blues, I mean when you get to the States it's, as you know, it's... most... the black people actually listen to, like, Michael Jackson, and, y'know, etc. etc., with a few exceptions. But now Robert is actually.... sort of setting up a new generation of blues fans, which is great."

Did you record the LP in the UK, or did you do it over in the States?

RG - "We did it all in London, all the tracks, yeah."

And you produced it yourself?

RG - "I did indeed, yeah... for my sins..."

Terrible confession, I'm not aware of whether or not you've produced any of your previous LPs.

RG - "I have done, yeah, a couple of them, and I've done a few co-productions with people like Alan O'Duffy, and Roger Glover, but... in general I like to do it myself, purely because you can call your own sessions, your own time, and y'know, with a lot of the producers I admire now, like Nick Lowe, I'd like to work with, Glynn Johns, Dave Edmunds... If you contact them they can only give you 'x' weeks, in a certain month, or whatever, and, given our approach, it would be too confining. Added to the fact that I have fairly strict uh... ideas about things, so... I find it best if you get a good engineer who's prepared to kind of.. help you along the way, and that's what we've worked. I mean, to be honest, Alan O'Duffy who co-produced Top Priority and Photo Finish, helped on about half of this album, or thereabouts, but then he went on to something else and I progressed with the project myself. But uh... see my dream... I'd like to work on eight-track or sixteen-track, and that would suit me fine, cos, you'd record it in the afternoon, you'd overdub it after tea, and then you'd mix it the following day or something (laughs), and get it over with."

I read a quote somewhere, attributed to yourself, that you read somewhere that the Eagles prefer to record on sixteen-track because they get a fuller sound, they get a wider band on the tape?

RG - "Yeah, well I mean, people argue about it, but if you consider that 24-track, or 16-track is 2inch tape, and 16-track has twice the space of one track of 24, and um, people like David Lindley and Ry Cooder and all that have, y'know, kept that in mind, and that's what they go for. And I know, we did a couple of albums on 16-track, and it does seem fuller, I dunno whether it's imaginary or whatever."

"But then you see, once you get into that department, it's like saying... um ... can you get 'x' kind of echo, and the engineer, particularly some of the newer guys would say Oh, why don't you use this digital delay, and we can punch in a sample of a small clubroom sound, for instance, or a big huge theatre, but, it all sounds... y'know, we have used these effects, but, quite often we go back to, like, tape-echo and reverb, spring-reverb, and even on some of these tracks on the album I used old Copy-cat echoes myself, like real... prehistoric now, but it just..."

The old Watkins?

RG - "Watkins, yeah, and I used that on Loanshark Blues, and I used it on... Seems To Me.... It's just that when you touch the guitar, there's this... every little movement of your hand, y'know, affects the tape, or the heads, and it just.... it's something you can't really do after when you're mixing, you can't create that percussive, blues or rockabilly feel, so... But unfortunately you see, if you're a young engineer, what I'm saying tends to go against the 'state-of-the-art', so you have to live with that, you know?"

Talking about engineers, as you're aware, Radio Clyde is recording tonight's performance for broadcast on the Rock Show, and I just wonder, does that add any complications to you as a performer? Does it make you more nervous? or does it not bother you now?

RG - "Ah, it does indeed. I mean, it's an extra tension, naturally enough, because you're playing to two audiences, mentally, and y'know, you're more cautious of buzzes, and mistakes, and broken strings and so on. By the same token, if it happens to a good gig, and it's well recorded, it's a double buzz then. So the extra tension can be creative. What's difficult, if you're doing a live TV thing, that's very hard sometimes, because they have to use very bright lights, and you're trying to please the audience out front, and meanwhile, you're trying to look into the camera, or direct your act to the camera, that's harrowing, but... I'll be delighted... If tonight works, it'll be great because we do a few numbers that aren't on the album, tracks for the next album, so to speak, and that'll be nice, to get them on tape and see how they... happen."

And do you have any opinion on... Rory Gallagher's been in the polls for best guitarist, for perhaps more years than Rory Gallagher would care to remember, do you have any opinion of any of the newer guitarists that have come out in the last year or two?

RG - "Yeah, well there's...sure enough, umm... a lot of the older guys are still playing pretty good, I mean, obviously everyone's aware of Johnny Marr, and The Edge, and John McGiol(?sp), I think I've got his name right, but all those guys tend to be more like... textural players, they want cascades of sound and so on, and they're all fine players, but I mean... of the new guitar players.... I like the lead guitar player, so called, of Los Lobos, he's a very fluid player, umm... But most of the old guys'll have to be shot, cos they're still alive and playing (laughs) it's... some of them fade away, and the next thing they come.. like, Albert Lee's still playing, Clapton's playing... I dunno, who else? I mean there's so many fine players around, but then, you've got these great acoustic players like Martin Carthy, and Bert Jansch, who're still outrageous... um... there's some fine players... and the guitar player of the (ex, they've split up) of the Stray Cats, Brian Setzer, has got quite a facility. But Keith Richard's still causing trouble on the guitar I'm afraid, but we'll see..."

There's talk of a solo album from Keith

RG - "So I believe, yeah, that'll be interesting. Well, I believe there's daggers in the back there with..."

Daggers with Jagger?

RG - "Yeah. So we'll see... but Keith's album might be better than... they need each other, it's sad really when, y'know.."

Yeah, it's unnecessary I think

RG - "It is indeed, yeah. But, y'know, it's very hard after 20-odd years to keep... to keep sort of friendly, you know, but, umm.... But Keith's album could be very interesting, because he probably... I hope he doesn't attempt to make it a huge commercial success, he might actually make a very raunchy, down-home album.."

So that he doesn't care if it sells a million or if it sells 25,000?

RG - "Yeah"

The recording cuts off here, just as Rory begins speaking again. Someone else may have the full interview.

Thanks to Valerie Barr for transcribing this interview from a recording!
reformatted by roryfan

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added 3/4/07