GILBY CLARKE - “I Thought I Was Going To Die!”

October 27, 2010, 9 years ago

Words and photos by Aaron Small

gilby clarke feature

“I’m just happy to be standing upright. It was a hard, hard experience,” says former GUNS N’ ROSES guitarist GILBY CLARKE when asked about his motorcycle accident that occurred earlier this year in January. As Clarke was riding through an intersection in Los Angeles, CA, a pick up truck made an illegal left turn and collided with the six-stringer, leaving him with three broken bones in his left foot/ankle and a broken bone in his right foot. “In the back of my mind, I’ve always known that’s a possibility. I go into every intersection thinking oh, watch it. But what actually happens, you don’t really know if you’re going to live or die? Not to get too deep but man, when I hit that friggin’ truck, I seriously thought I was going to die! It was that hard. When I was on the ground, I was happy that I only had a broken leg. But I’m getting around, I’m getting my life back together as far as being able to do what I was doing before.”

In a cowardly act, the driver of the pick up truck failed to remain and fled the scene. According to Gilby, “They haven’t caught him. We actually know who did it though, strangely enough. A friend of mine was at a party and he overheard a guy tell a friend of his about the accident – ‘Yeah, I hit some guy. My driver’s licence is suspended. I don’t have insurance. I was with an underage girl - blah, blah, blah.’ So my friend goes, ‘Dude! I know who you fucking hit! That’s not cool; apologize.’ He says, ‘Fuck him!’ With all the shit that went down, he’s actually in jail right now on a robbery charge – he’s a bad guy.”

After a pair of operations and months of recovery, Gilby is back on the road, having recently played three shows in Ontario, Canada. Up next is a trek through Argentina, Brazil and Chile. “I’m going to do a South American run in December. I did some shows in Texas and the Mid-West in June. This is more or less trying to get my sea legs back basically, there’s no real purpose to it right now.”

The aforementioned Canadian shows marked the premiere of Gilby’s new band, consisting of Sean Kelly – who plays guitar for CRASH KELLY and NELLY FURTADO – on bass, and Dave Langguth, also of Nelly Furtado, on drums. Gilby’s association with Sean goes back several years as he’s produced, recorded and mixed the last two Crash Kelly albums, One More Heart Attack and Electric Satisfaction. “Yes, that’s very exciting. When these dates came up, I actually thought I’d have my regular band, but they’re not available because I’m not working that much; they’ve got other gigs and stuff. So I called Sean and even before I could ask him if he would consider playing bass, he says, ‘You know I play bass.’ So it worked out. He told me about Dave and I went on YouTube – he’s a great drummer. You know what’s nice about it – and this is a perfect word for it – it’s inspiring. It’s a total different feel to what my normal band does, but it’s a different feel in a good way. It re-energizes me. They both get such a great groove on. Sean’s such a great musician. The way he plays bass is like a guitar player, there’s no doubt about it. But he’s not going crazy, he’s doing what he should be doing.”

With four solo albums under his belt, the most recent being 2002’s Swag, will Gilby release a new album next year? “You know you ask me that question every year and I say yeah, next year. I really hope so. It’s not a matter of being lazy; it’s just a matter of doing something good. Every time I’ve gone to work on some songs, it’s just not there. I don’t want to do something that’s shitty. I really do need to do one, I honestly do. As a musician, we need to mark our periods of time.”

In 2006, Gilby joined forces with MÖTLEY CRÜE drummer Tommy Lee, former METALLICA bassist Jason Newsted and vocalist Lucas Rossi in ROCK STAR SUPERNOVA. Tommy has just released his new METHODS OF MAYHEM album, A Public Disservice Announcement. The creative process involved Lee posting the bare bones of his new songs online, and allowing anyone to submit their contributions – the best of which made the album and shaped it’s sound. Gilby offers his thoughts on this unusual collaborative style. “I don’t think it’s something I would do. I think it was a genius idea, honestly. First of all, it’s so amazing that can happen. For the kind of stuff Tommy’s doing, it’s perfect. Tommy likes to create from the bottom up. He likes to start with something and make a song; he doesn’t just say, ‘I have a song, it goes like this.’ It’s like baking a cake; just keep putting stuff in until it’s done. For me, I like the connection of working with other musicians. I get off on a good drummer, a good bass player, a good guitar player – it makes me play better. But I also think it’s a great marketing idea. You’ve got all these musicians who feel a part of it and they’re going to talk about it; he just hired himself 1,000 publicists.”

Gilby’s former guitar partner in Guns N’ Roses, SLASH, issued his self-titled solo album earlier this year. It features a plethora of guest appearances, including GN’R alumni Izzy Stradlin, Duff McKagan and Steven Alder. However, Gilby was not asked to participate. In fact, that didn’t surprise him. “No, not surprised at all. I can’t answer his (Slash’s) point, just what I assume. I think we’re at different places. I honestly think we do the same thing. First of all, he’s not going to work with me as a singer, he never really thought of me as a singer. Guitar player? He’s doing all the guitars. That’s the thing about doing a solo record. That’s just my opinion. I’ve heard a couple songs and I thought it was pretty good. I really like the OZZY track (‘Crucify The Dead’). Actually, when I was in the hospital (as a result of the motorcycle accident), Slash texted me every week, checking up on me.”

On October 14th in London, England at The 02 Arena, Duff joined Axl Rose and his current incarnation of GN’R onstage for four songs: 'You Could Be Mine', 'Nice Boys' (ROSE TATTOO cover), 'Knockin' On Heaven's Door' (BOB DYLAN cover) and 'Patience'. This was the first time since 1993 that Duff and Axl had shared a stage together. “My agent called me and told me about it. Wow! Once again, no, I wasn’t surprised. I know that Duff still has a relationship with Axl. I was surprised that it happened last week. I just saw Duff. I didn’t even know that was out there. It was a little odd.”

Steven Adler, who Gilby did not play with in Guns N’ Roses, is literally praying to God for a GN’R reunion. Could that ever happen? “Once again, you’re asking me my opinion. I honestly don’t know? Do I think it’s possible? Yes I do. Deep down, I really don’t think it’s going to happen. Even if it does happen, I don’t think I’ll be involved. Most people want to see the original five guys – as a fan of the band, me too. I think if it did happen, it would be Izzy and Steven. If Izzy doesn’t do it, hopefully they would ask me afterwards. I would only do it, and I’ve stated this a million times, if Slash, Duff and Steven or Matt (Sorum) was involved.” The current GN’R lineup has three guitar players. “There you go, you never know. It’s always fun to talk about, but the reality is only one person knows what’s going to happen.”

As far as Gilby’s work as a producer goes, he’s “mixed two ALARM records that still haven’t come out yet. I’ve got to tell you, I personally thought they were fantastic. I really loved them. I thought the songs were good, so I’m kinda waiting for that. The MOTORCHRIST record I did just came out.” Clarke also spent some time with LADYJACK. “Yes, well the singer, (Rick Stitch) who’s in ADLER’S APPETITE now which is kind of sidetracking everything now. I still keep in touch with Rick all the time because I really think he’s a talent! I was waiting for them to grow. Basically, what I said was I want to capture this moment in time – where you guys are at. That’s why I didn’t go too crazy – let’s get you where you are right now; but, I wanna see some growth, some new songs. To me, they were still a little separate – the singer and guitar player needed to mould a real sound together… I’m still waiting for that basically. I think Rick is fantastic! He’s a great guy. He’s got great stage presence; everything a singer has, he has – it’s really good.”

Adler’s Appetite is playing clubs, as is Gilby Clarke. If a package tour combining the former Gunners presented itself, would it be a consideration? “Absolutely. I know a lot of people who think there’s rules out here – fuck all that shit! Yeah, if I was in a room with Axl, I have a few things I’d like to say. Hopefully he hears me. But the reality is, I love the music of the band. I always thought it was a great band. As people, they’re such great musicians, I really think they can contribute something; whether it’s together or separate – whatever. I’m a big supporter of Steven. I’m the one who took him to South America, when nobody would give him a gig, to play drums with me. I love Steven. I think he should be playing drums. That’s his purpose here. So yeah, I would. But I don’t think it’s right for me to go out there and do what Steven’s doing – a Guns N’ Roses tribute. I think what he’s doing is the right thing for him. I don’t think it’s right for me or Slash or Duff – that’s just my opinion.”

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