The SOUNDS Talk-in
with Rory Gallagher
is the Irish guitarist who played a highly personalized brand of the
blues with a trio called Taste, a group that became much bigger than
the blues boom that spawned them. Taste split up five months ago
- Charlie McCracken and John Wilson, the other former members of Taste,
are already on the road with Stud ‑ but Gallagher has taken
longer. He's ready now, he's completed an album and has a new
group together which will be another trio of Irish musicians. The
interview, by Royston Eldridge, took place at Polydor Records who will
release Gallagher’s new album in May.
"I'm my own
man, I just do what ever I please . . ."
After the last Taste gig you stayed on in Ireland. Did you go home
first of all?
Well let me
see … we ended up with an Irish tour for four or five days and I think
the two boys returned, maybe they stayed in Belfast for a day or two,
Belfast being the last gig, and then they came back over here of
course. I went back down to Cork and spent two weeks there.
I came back then - a lot of people thought I was in Japan or somewhere,
but I came back almost immediately.
you busy during this period?
Yeah … I've
been almost as busy as always, but in a different field as you can
imagine, you know, getting things sorted out. I've been doing
something almost every day, I've had to see someone or do something
connected with the business every day, but I suppose it's better to be
busy even if you're not enjoying it, you know.
you able to listen to much music?
Yes, the whole
thing gave me a chance to. A whole new set of circumstances for
anyone and you start remembering musical ideas that you had before and
musical directions which you forget. I bought a lot of records
and I listened a lot to the older 1920’s and 30’s guitarists who keep
frightening me … you keep discovering them and how good they are.
Willie Johnson plays beautiful slide and Scrapper Blackwell - I’d heard
them in bits and pieces before, but I had a chance to really delve into
them. Even by standards now, they really had the edge, you
know. Obviously progress has been made, but Scrapper Blackwell
is, well, frightening. He gets this clicking sound from the
frets, he was bending strings and everything.
The old names,
you know, you just listen and they do boogies back to front and just
natural things. They don't sit down and try to be clever, it just
comes out, it comes directly out. Blind Boy Fuller, all these
people, they've got so many albums, of course, but it's impossible to
track them down particularly in this country; you have to get them
did you meet the two guys you used on the album? Had you known
them for some time?
Yes, off and
on. Over the years I’d seen them in Ireland and they were over
here for a little while, I’d seen and heard them in various shapes and
sizes. I tried out quite a few musicians and I tried them, maybe
the fact that they played together was a help, but as soon as I heard
them, they seemed relaxing to play with. You could just let your
breath sink and just let it happen. The main reason first of all
was just for the record because they grasped the songs that I was going
to use and since then with rehearsals it looks like it could last quite
a while, I’d like to think it could, and I'm pretty happy with them,
is the bass player and Wilgar Campbell is the drummer. There's
two tracks on the album with piano on and that's Vincent Crane sitting
in, by kind permission. He does a great job, he's got quite a
feel for the old rolling piano, I don't think anyone would recognize
him at all. I'm just playing acoustic guitar, it's just acoustic
and piano on those tracks.
Most of the
stuff is done without overdubbing, it's just done, we went in with the
vocals and everything under one thing. It's the only way to
record this sort of music because when you start doing the vocal later
its … in some studios, of course, you have trouble with the separation
but Advision, which is where we did it, got the sound. If you dub
vocals on you can't do any interweaving with the guitar as you would do
normally, so in the future this is the way that I'm going to do
it, just go in and try and get it all first take.
long has the group as such been together?
Let me see, I
think I started recording the album about the twenty-second of February
and we started rehearsals a couple of weeks before that, but there are
no real formalized dates or even formalized situations, if you can
grasp what I mean. It's just that was the deadline I had to go in
the studio by and I worked through to about March 6, I think.
the rehearsals go easy?
It just fitted
into place, they grasped what was needed, but there again obviously in
view of the fact that they'd seen me playing over the years at various
intervals they had a rough idea of what kind of style was needed but to
add to that there was a relaxed feel which is so important.
You've got to be able to sink back, you know. Maybe when you're about
forty or fifty, if you're lucky, you can just let it happen without
being tense at all, that's the important thing.
Were you able to relax when you
weren't recording? Did you feel relaxed in yourself?
really. I was too frustrated to play all the time. I was
either having a blow with somebody or playing every day myself, I
played a lot of acoustic guitar which has helped my technique a lot
with the other thing. I had to do a lot of things that I didn't
like doing, I just had to see so many people that I'm not interested
in, business people, you know, but it's probably just as well because I
couldn't just sit down and solo for so many months you know.
Everything seemed to be getting together the following week, then the
following week, but it's all together now so …The lay off has done me a
lot of good though, actually.
you feel easier in yourself now?
Yeah. I'm my
own man, just do whatever I please. There's no why's or reasons
or anything else, it's just that things have worked out and everyone's
happier from it, I suppose.
there more acoustic guitar work on the album than there is electric
There's a couple of tracks acoustic, you can get carried away and lose
what your real thing is, so there's a certain amount of acoustic
guitar, but you've got to do a certain amount of practice on acoustic
with good heavy strings ‘cos then when you move over to electric with
the lighter strings you can, well, it's just like floating on a piece
of jelly or something, but your right hand, it gets your picking
together a bit ‘cos that helps rather than just using plectrums
totally, you know. It gives you a lot more scope.
you manage to write many songs while you were away?
When I went
into the studio I had too many songs, it was killing because there was
enough for two albums, I’d say and maybe more. We just kept it
down to ten songs and as much time on the album as you can get.
We stretched it a bit, you can do a few technical things when you're
cutting a record so it's about twenty two and twenty five minutes the
other side. Any more than that and you would have no sound.
It's probably better to have too many songs ready than to have to jam
in the studio to fill out time. I suppose with a more relaxed
state you find it easier to write more.
you find it easy, did the songs come easily?
Yeah, I did
but there again songs come in bulks. With songwriting again
there's a certain amount of technique that you've got to learn.
It's like anything else, it's not all technique, it's only a small
amount, but once you realize how to handle the mental circumstances you
can stop and use a kind of very rough patter so you don't lose songs
like you might do, you don't lose phrases here and phrases there.
And of course you always carry a notebook for a change, just in case,
you know, because that's the worst thing if you're going along in a
train or something and you're thinking of a song …
you find it hard to write songs towards the end of Taste because the
act that you were doing towards the end was basically the same one that
you had been doing for a little while?
Er … well, I
won't say anything about that but no, I didn't really. I had a
lot of songs but it was just the whole situation didn't really … In
answer to your question, no, I didn't find it difficult. I was
very busy so it wasn't quite as easy to put them together and prepare
them. They were still there, there was quite a stockpile, maybe
that's half the reason I've got so many now.
do you go on the road with the new band?
I think it's
May the eighth and the album should be out that week as well.
We'll do a couple of concerts and a lot of clubs all over the country
and then late June we do a tour at home and then after that I do a tour
of the continent which should see me into the autumn sometime.
Then the States should be hovering then, please God. It looks
nice, I've got a good agent and he's, you know, he knows where I like
to work. It's just taking nice shape, thank God.
you think you may increase the size of the band?
Let's put it
this way. I didn't sit down and say it must only be a
three‑piece. Maybe if the right guys turn up I might expand it,
but if you expand a group what you gain you lose a lot, you know.
With the three‑piece – I suppose it's old hat to say it now ‑ for this
kind of music, let's say if you're doing something that's very much in
the blues thing it's impossible to have too many instruments hanging
about the place. I'm still quite happy using a three‑piece, so
much can be done with it, but you never know, I might bring guys on as
guests for a couple of numbers and so on. Strangely enough I
still feel better with the three.
you decided to get another group together, did you have anything
special in mind? Did you have a format for the band?
I was open to
everyone that I could hear and so on, but obviously going back over the
years as far as I can remember I've had a rough idea of what I want,
and of course, I had the songs so that was some direction. My
ideas are just the same going way back, but if it had turned out that
there were enough guys for a big orchestra, great, but you've got to
keep your wits about you and I just feel better with bass and
drums. And even more better when they're playing like these guys
you audition a lot of musicians?
but a couple; you know. I can't remember what the number was, I
went to hear people as well as audition, but these guys came to mind
pretty early anyway.
you approached by many people wanting to play with you?
Oh yeah, all
over the place … but that's only natural.
you find Gerry and Wilgar in Cork or were they over here?
I think Wilgar
was over here, but they were in transit going back and forth like
seems ages since you've been on stage, did you miss playing?
Very much. I suppose you are what you do, a lot of people don't
admit it, but you are what you do best, let's put it that way.
you feel that you are at your best on stage rather than in the studio?
Yeah, but I
mean but a lot of people say that the albums don't come over as well as
the songs do on stage, that's true to a point, but you gain certain
little intricacies, certain things that you get in the studio that you
wouldn't get on stage, so it evens it up or it almost does.
Eventually I think you get the studio sound to be like the live, but
live is different, you see, because you've got that more time etcetera
etcetera, you've got certain acoustics and so on.
have always seemed to fire you though?
I suppose it's
a fair criticism for the kind of music because there's excitement and
there's people involved. It's different if you're playing more
clinical music where you can just sit there and play it as you would on
a record, but I use the same approach in the studio. I go in and try
and get the atmosphere in the studio as I would on stage. That's
as much as you can do really.
certain little techniques that you cast aside when you go into the
studio at first, you treat them as just superfluous gimmicks or
something, but they can be used to make the sound not better but to
make your real sound come over as compared to a very dry sound in the
did you feel about the last Taste album that came out, the Live Taste
one? I believe it was recorded in Montreux?
I believe it
was … I don't know, what can I say, it's …
A lot of
people felt that it was one of the best Taste albums; that it captured
everything that Taste was about?
Well, I'm glad
if they felt that way. Let's just say I read about it in the
paper. It's fine if they enjoy it, maybe there's better live
material about, maybe there wasn't, but maybe if they like it as a
souvenir, to play it to remember by or whatever without All Your
Yesterdays about it, you know, that's fine. I’ll be doing a live album,
maybe the next one, but with live albums you have to know that you're
doing them on a certain night, you've got to know they're coming.
Taste had stayed together do you think there were a lot of things that
you still could have done? Had you reached the end of your
potential as a unit together?
Yes, I think
so. Obviously there are lots of little avenues that might have
cropped up under different circumstances, let's put it that way, but
all in all, it had … well obviously, you know.
you think your new group is going in the direction that maybe Taste
would have gone in if you'd stayed together and everybody had been
happy? Is it a natural progression for you as a musician?
In view of the
fact that I wrote most of the stuff before and I'm writing most of the
stuff now there's bound to be, from my point of view, a
progression. It's not like a new version of, it's not a new
version of, it's just that I'm the same guy so there's bound to be
certain similarities. I can trace it way back through the various
changes that I've made. It's still Rory Gallagher and
whatever he was to the old group … let's just say that I'm writing all
the stuff and doing what I want to.
People are obviously going to compare
the old group with the new group; is that something that worries you?
I won't worry about it. I'm quite proud of what we did
before. I suppose they'll compare but I don't mind, there'll be a
lot of new ideas and a lot of new things. I mean I can see a lot
of differences now just jamming and rehearsing. Obviously
different circumstances and different musicians will change the thing,
but I'm the same guy so I've moved on and there's different things with
the two musicians with you been involved with the blues for some time?
they've had experience with other sorts of music as well in passing
which is good. They've backed a lot of people, they backed
Champion Jack Dupree for a while although a lot of people have done
that. They've got the feel for it and the ideas for it, they must
have, you know, because I can relax and fall back and then you can
attack, not that I didn't before, it just seems that way now a little
Are you looking forward to going
across to the States?
Yes, you can
hear a lot of different people there and there's always these people
arriving at the clubs with their guitars under their arms. They
come up to sort of destroy you, you know what I mean, and that's great
because it keeps you on your toes. I’d like to take a trip down
South and look around, but I don't know if we'll get work there because
most groups have to avoid certain states because you get your head
chopped off or something. I’d like to see some of the towns, I
was talking to a group who were in New Orleans at one time, which I
suppose is the source of the music, and you can walk down these streets
and there's all these old bars where apparently you can walk in there's
Fats Domino on stage blowing for eight hours. That's the way to
see the music, it's totally different from what they do on
record. Fats is an amazing musician, you know, because in 1949 he
was using the chords that Fuller, Blind Boy Fuller, used. It's
almost an insult to call him r & b or rock and roll or any term …
do you rate the new wave of guitarists? What do you think of
someone like Duane Allman?
I think he's
one of the best around, you know. He's a little over‑rated slide
wise, comparing definition of note and so on, but he's certainly got
his soul there. Ry Cooder? He's very good too, but again,
he's very derivative. I'm more interested in a new kind of
technique for slide which has a little more country and western
technique in it. There's so much more that you can do with slide,
you can keep on developing. Ry Cooder is very good, though, his
album is fantastic
This interview was
Royston Eldridge for SOUNDS – April 10, 1971
Thanks to Brenda O'Brien for providing
& preparing this article
reformatted by roryfan