Reluctant Irish Hero
Last time we spoke, you were
thinking about recording the next album in
the ‘States. Why did you choose Musicland?
Well, number one; I decided on Roger Glover for producer and he was
over there doing his own album and he asked if we'd like to come over
there and do it. Just at the end of the last German tour, I went
over and looked at the place and it's a hotel, which saves you coming
all over the city to the studio. That's the main reason, but I'd
still like to record in the ‘States sometime.
How does it compare to Wessex,
the last studio you used?
It's a completely different kind of studio. Wessex is kind of
"live" and very spacious, but Musicland is a bit different. Like,
they sometimes put drummers out in the hallway because it's
concrete. They didn't do that with us. They put my guitar
amp in the vocal booth and I stood outside the booth so I could hear
it, but it wasn't spilling over into the other mikes, so most of the
time, there was no need for cans which was great.
I know you like to record live
vocals and guitar together. Did
you still do it that way?
It depends on the song. I like the idea of a live vocal and live
guitar but in some cases I re-did the vocals but left the lead guitar
on and just overdubbed a rhythm afterwards. But then, sometimes
it's hard to distinguish between what I would call a lead and a rhythm,
and sometimes, if it's a number that needs very precise timing and
chord playing, then I'd play rhythm and then stick on the lead
afterwards. That's only if I want to kind of…head for perfection,
but I still prefer to play live lead. Sometimes, the drummer will
be playing and you might hear a phrase which kind of inspires you,
whereas if you're playing to a backing track, it's kind of mechanical.
Apart from obvious accidents
like breaking a string or something, how
often do you find you have to re-record a solo?
If it's like a live lead solo, eight times out of ten I do it O.K. and
I'm happy. Overdubbing a solo, generally I can get it in the
first one or two takes. I try to do the solo live.
Sometimes, I'll do the main "body" of the solo live and then maybe
overdub a lead part of the fadeout.
Last time, you spoke about
your Strat and the Tele. Could you
tell me about your acoustic guitars?
I've got a Martin D.35, which is great for the acoustic stuff. I
usually use medium gauge bronze strings on that. The neck's a bit
fat for my liking - I'd rather a D-28 neck. I use an Ibanez bug
pick up - I think it's a copy of the Barcus Berry, but I prefer it to a
Barcus Berry. I've also got a National, which is the steel-bodied
one. That's about 1933 I think. It's the first of the
series anyway - the model with just one resonator. After that,
they made one with two and then three resonators. Strangely
enough the more resonators, the less banjoey the tone becomes.
Mine has a real banjo tone. Then, I've got a 12 string Harmony
Sovereign, which I use quite a lot on recordings - I had the neck taken
off and put back on to get a better action.
Which guitar did you use on
"Barley And Grape Rag "?
That was the National. We recorded that in the canteen at
Musicland because it's a big room and the voice sounds like it's on one
big resonator. They record in all sorts of places there - out in
the hallway or down in the basement - that's where John Bonham likes to
What other acoustics do you
Well, there's a Martin Mandolin OM model, which I think was made in
about 1935. I've got an Ibanez bug on that as well. I've tried
the bug on the National but it doesn't really work too well because the
sound comes from the resonator. Oh, yeah I've still
got a three-quarter size guitar I had when I was nine. It was in
my grandmother's attic for years and I'd forgotten about it. I
had a piece of a school ruler on it in place of a bridge. I did
that because I used to play it for hours and hours and my fingers would
start to blister like mad. The only strings you could buy in
those days were heavy gauge, so I tried to shave the bridge down but I
didn't have enough sandpaper, so I stuck a piece of a ruler on instead
of the bridge. The only trouble was that if you hit it really
hard, it would fall over (laughs).
That was quite an early age to
get into modifications.
Oh, yeah. I used to mess around like that. I saw these people
mess around with capos, and so I used to get a pencil and an elastic
band and that used to do. Funnily enough, I heard that was what
Sleepy John Estes used to do as well. I think that's all the
acoustics I have. Oh, wait a while - I've got an old guitar I
used on the first Taste album on one song. I got it in a pawnshop
in Copenhagen for about two quid. It had a couple of cracks in so
I fixed them up. It's quite a small guitar as well, but it's
really good for ragtime stuff. It's called a Bjarton - a
subsidiary of Levin or someone like that.
Which is your favourite
Well, they're all used for different things. The Martin is really
nice. Depending on the way you mike it up, you can get a toppy or
a middley or a bassy tone out of it, although it still sounds like a
Martin. As I say, my only crib about it is that the neck's a bit
fat, but I think I'll leave it like that because the National neck is
Have you any favourite tracks
on the new album?
Well, it varies from day to day. I like them all equally
really. I enjoyed doing each track for different reasons and I'm
now kind of rediscovering the album. There's not one that I wince
at, you know.
Between the time of recording
and the actual release of an album, is it
unusual for you to find you still like the tracks?
Oh, yeah. I think to myself sometimes "Oh, I
wish I'd done this here
and that there," but then I'm sure The Beatles had that feeling about
"Sergeant Pepper." It's one of those things. Songwise, I
felt very happy with the songs. Like "Barley And Grape Rag" - it
sounds as though it's a throw away song to write, but it's not.
The first line is "I don't care if I get arrested" and whatever comes
after that has to be good. It's demanding attention right from
the first line, like a bluesy song. We tried to get that feel -
Rod tried to play it like a…a sort of 1940’s ragtime drummer. He
originally did it as just straight backing drums, but then he got more
of a Salvation Army, jug band type of thing which is much more
effective for it. But only just to the point where it isn't
frivolous. The song itself is sort of humorous but you don't want
to turn it into a sort of kazoo job! "Country Mile" is a song
I've wanted to do for ages too - a really fast, rockabilly thing.
I remember the night we did it - we'd been rehearsing it and it was
hard going to keep up with the tempo. Normally, the policy in the
studio is to rehearse it and do it about two thirds of the tempo and
lay it back all the time. That's fine. That works nine
times out of ten, but I think a lot of people forget that the old
fifties rocky things were really exaggerated tempo things. On
versions of that song, where we held the tempo back, it's not half the
number. We just did it like we were a bunch of headcases in the
‘fifties, you know - 1 2 3 4 bang! At first I was worried that it
was a bit too fast, but now I think it's just right.
The band has been together for
quite a while now and you must have a
good repertoire. How do you decide what goes into a particular
Well, it's a mixture really. We usually do a couple of hours
onstage and that's plenty of time to do some old favourites and also
put some of the newer material in, which you have to do, you have to
keep updating the set. You usually improvise anyway. We
never had a very strict set worked out. We've done "Calling Card"
and "Secret Agent" live already in our set, before the album came out.
The last time you released a
single was with Taste years ago. Have you
thought of releasing one since?
That's kind of an annoying thing with me. I admit that the need
for a single was less important a few years ago, because your so-called
underground thing was there. I must also admit the radio over
here is getting a lot better recently. The only airplay I get is
one or two late night shows and sometimes, I'll be driving along and
think "I wish to God they'd play one of my songs" and they won't unless
it's a single. Subsequently you're on a kind of a limb where
you're not getting a lot of airplay and only getting through to your
own main body of followers. There's a great argument for singles
but, to my mind, there's a bigger argument against them. I just
seem to have this mental block against singles for some reason. I
mean, I would like to be on the radio every ten minutes like everybody
else but…I don't know. It's just one of those things. I
certainly wouldn't bring out a "pretty" song just to get a hit
single. This business of getting a pair of scissors out and
chopping off this verse and cutting out that solo - that kind of thing
annoys me. The E.P. idea I quite like. I was thinking of
doing one ages ago. At that time, the record companies said that
it was impossible and they couldn't be made. Since then Status
Quo came up with a live one and there's been a lot of them since
then. Then there's been all these so-called "Maxi singles" - E.P.
always sounds better to me than maxi singles anyway.
You see, talking to me about the ethics of singles…I’m, the worst one
in the world. I tend to agree that if you don't release singles,
then you'll probably never achieve a certain communication level with
what you might call surface listeners - people who aren't that keen
about going to concerts or clubs. But, as I said, I have this
block about singles.
In terms of promotion you've
always had a low-key approach. How
would you react to being pushed into a big hype situation?
Well, we've been very successful in terms of we can draw as big an
audience up to a point in this country and Europe and America. We
haven't been overly publicized and yet we haven't had flop tours.
In that respect, I don't think we could become that much more
successful. Number two, I don't fancy being on the papers every
week and thinking about new quotes to say. That's just not my
personality. I mean, if I could be played on the radio every half
hour or even twice a day, then that'd be great. I couldn't go for
a big promotion drive and all that. I'm not knocking it, but it
just wouldn't suit me. Like having a single out to me means you
have to kind of wear a funny hat for a week. It's all trivial and
eventually you just become a local Punch and Judy show. My mind
is really taken up with playing so much - I know it sounds like an old
cliché, but it's true. That's the way I feel.
You perform a fair amount of
acoustic material in your sets now. Where
do your preferences lie? With the raunchy stuff or the acoustic?
I don't really know. I'm just trying to develop to the point
where it's just Rory Gallagher music. But I mean I don't think
I'd ever stop playing things with a bluesy feel. I'm not afraid
to let a thing rock and on the other hand, I'm so interested in
acoustic and folk style that that stuff creeps in as well. I'm a
bit of a jazz fan and I like soul things as well - I think it's really
hard to pigeonhole anyone in most bands, because it's not unusual now
for a blues musician to play a soul thing or even a country style
thing. I think that's the way it should be.
Thanks to Brenda O'Brien for
supplying & typing this article
reformatted by roryfan