The interview included one full page photo and a partial page photo.
Rory Gallagher and His Fury by J.P.Sabour & X.Bonnet
Icon of British blues-rock for the last twenty years, the man from Cork has suffered a trip through the desert since the mid 1980's that is as unexplained as it is unjustified. A period of ups and downs that he hasn't escaped unscathed, to the point of seeing the future with detachment and uneasiness.
No news for a two and a half years. Insidious rumors have even painted the man as being near the end of the line, his failing health ready to seal the cap on a journey turned bad by the ravages of time, volatile moods and a musical style that is as turbulent as it is fleeting. Far away seems the time when every new album or concert appearance automatically created a stir. Blown away are the days when Rory Gallagher evoked unanimous praise for having known how to forge a personality and a style while adapting himself to all the styles, from blues to heavy metal to punk.
Trying not to evoke the word come-back, the ex-Wayward Child launches today into the "nth" tour in support of an upcoming album that we'd like so see symbolize a fever rediscovered, by default a "rehabilitation" in the eyes of those who never cease to focus on the renewed interest in the blues. Guitar in hand, the Irishman hasn't lost any of his verve, remaining more capable than ever of setting fire to a concert hall with his generosity while hypnotizing the audience the next instant with an acoustic detour imprinted with a troubled finish. As for the chequered shirts that he wears only rarely now, they are certainly more "true" than those worn by certain grunge groups recently converted to the "farmer" cult, all scandalous connotations aside.
GW: You started more or less at the same time as the British Rock boom and one would be tempted to say that you are one of the first with the label "fast guitarist".
RG: I've always been a fast player and I still am, without searching to get into a contest with Eddie Van Halen or Joe Satriani. I have nothing against that technique or those "supra-musicians" who I am first to recognize have immense merits but, due to my own tastes, I've always considered rhythm as the indispensable element of rock. I've always sought to evolve within the boundaries where rhythm ties in with the lead, using "suspended chords" that John Lee Hooker made his specialty. Pete Townsend is among those who has known how to best capture this fragile equilibrium and that's why he is still today among my favorite guitarists. Technique by itself doesn't mean anything.
GW: At the beginning of the 80's, that propension to play fast brought the public to interest themselves in only that aspect of your playing and to forget sometimes that you were also a songwriter. Does it disappoint you that you've become a sort of cut-out bin item despite your best efforts?
RG: Yes. The turning point was certainly the period of the live LP Stage Struck. In fact, after having done the blues, rock a little hard rock went into heavy metal area or somewhere close to it since that was only its premises. It's true that I felt a bit like I was putting up a false face to the crowds since this way of playing was only one facet of my personality, yet the whole world seemed to hold onto just that. The way that that was perceived is maybe one of the reasons that I felt "obliged" to come back next with more insistence to a more acoustic, rootsy or ethnic style.
GW: To close out this heavy metal chapter, do you have good memories of that jam in Los Angeles, about two years ago, with a certain Slash?
yes. Charming boy. A little crazy, but very charming! Very timid also,
it was with caution he came to me to ask if Duff (McKagan, G' n 'R
and himself could get on the stage with me. I know their first two albums, so I knew where I was going ! I was a fan of Izzy Stradlin and of what he had accomplished on the rhythm guitar anyway. It's too bad that not too many people noted the importance of his role in the group when he was in it and after. Slash reminds me a little of a young Jimmy Page with his way of playing [in "dilettante" style]. You sometimes get the impression that he doesn't pay attention to what he's doing or that he doesn't care, which is far from the truth, as in the next instant he can let loose a riff that will freeze your blood. Very strange. He also shows respect to the music and to its origins when he plays.
Now I'm not so sure that the commercial path that they seem to be taking is the right one for them. In a sense, the group seems to be too controlled, too influenced from the outside. If you look at their album cover, it's scary, there are at least 120 people credited. Thanks to..for the strings, thanks to..this, thanks to..for that. Despite it all, I thinks they'll last because they have an enormous potential, notably thanks to Slash who really is an excellent guitarist.
GW: You've always had the reputation of someone who knows exactly where he's going and how to get there. The other side of the coin is that, except for Gerry MacAvoy, who was by your side for more than fifteen years, finding the right musicians and the ideal lineup didn't happen without causing some problems.
RG: That's true. It was even sometimes very complicated! The problem with getting the right lineup, whether it was the one with Gerry and Brendan ( O'Neill, the drummer who accompanied Rory for awhile before joining already departed Gerry MacAvoy in Nine Below Zero) or the lineup at the time of Taste, is that they were led to dissolve almost by the force of things and due to the wear of time. Having a "loyal" group behind you is nice, but that could also become very restrictive. That said, it's true that over time, I've learned to be more flexible with the musicians I choose to accompany me. I've adopted a different attitude and that's logical: as you get older, you learn other things and other ways of behaving, you retain some lessons in many areas. My policy with the current lineup is to act and to live day to day without worrying if the guys will be on the next album or the next tour. That's fairly difficult for me because I've had the habit of thinking too much, trying too hard to control events for a long time, reflecting too much on the past, the present, the future, who I am, where am I going, what will happen tomorrow, etc.....Today, I've cleared the decks of all of those existential worries that ended up preventing me from...living!
As a result, I've gained a tranquility of spirit and musically, too, as now if I want to go from a three piece band to a four piece band or vice versa in mid tour, I'll do it more freely. It's a good challenge for me because that permits me to put forth the most truth and freedom in my playing.
GW: As you said earlier, your last album and notably "Fresh Evidence" mark a return to the roots but are also heavier. Where are you going with the next one?
RG: All the while staying "rootsy", I think it will be harder, more direct, with a sound that will astound, I hope. I have a few ideas on that, but being superstitious, I prefer to keep a vale of mystery! I can nevertheless reveal that two albums will come out at the same time, the other being an acoustic album with one side blues and the other side celtic, Irish or traditional. Other than that, I'd like to record them in different studios, a bit like a gypsy going from town to town to get new experiences. As some people already know, I am a frustrated painter and in order to keep my energy up or a certain freshness, call it what you will, I feel the need to change my surroundings in order to express myself better.
I hope I will still be able to record these albums fairly quickly, because I don't want to repeat certain errors of the past by spending an incredible amount of time in the studio abusing my physical and mental health by thinking and rethinking what will work and what won't. An album that takes six months of work to record isn't worth the effort in my opinion. The problem today is the technicians and sound engineers. With the advent of digital, they constantly have the desire to redo this or rework that, by natural reflex. Perfection at this price doesn't interest me in the least and that could sometimes create certain misunderstandings in the way of working.
GW: At the time when blues is living a second youth, does the musical environment seem more welcoming to yourself?
RG: This rebirth could only satisfy me, of course, even if I hold back some reservations. Today, the blues doesn't seem to be coming back in the spirit of guys like Albert King, BB King, Albert Collins, Buddy Guy or John Lee Hooker, the kings of the guitar. We can call them that. It's too bad that today's public is largely unaware of their music - that is, the more rootsy and traditional aspects of the Dallas and Delta blues.
(Long silence) And then, in any case, I don't care in a way. To be truthful, I feel a bit used up after all theses years. I've given so much of myself to this business that I really have difficulty getting enthused about anything. Often, I think that I'd be better off dropping everything and going fishing or back to my paintings. I don't have a desire anymore to inspires sympathy in others or any other sentiment for that matter.
When during many years no one has paid you the least attention, and to see some people in this business come back because it becomes the new trend, I can't put up with that. It's a fairly perverted attitude. You end up caring about nothing and you can only look at this circus with a distant and discouraged regard. For years, the "defenders of rock" have in a way abandoned their responsibility, during the onset of punk and new wave, notably, whereas I continued to play and tour, to do the dirty work without the least bit of support, the least bit of publicity or coverage in the press. If today someone is interested in me in the least, I'm tempted to say stop by default. I have the chance to eat when I'm hungry and to be alive, but unfortunately that's all that matters to me right now. Success, failure, honors or oblivion, none of that means anything to me.
J.P.Sabour & X.Bonnet, translation by Len Trimmer
reformatted by roryfan
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