MR. BIG Guitarist PAUL GILBERT Talks Making Of New Solo Album During Quarantine - "It Was Fun To Play Drums And Have A Reason To Move The Arms And Legs Around"
July 22, 2021, a year ago
Mr. Big guitarist Paul Gilbert is featured in a new interview with Guitar World discussing the making of his new instrumental album, Werewolves Of Portland. An excerpt is available below.
GW: You played all the instruments on this record?
Gilbert: "Oh yeah. It was the quarantine so I was trying to figure out a way to do the album. I mean, I took a risk and breathed the same air as the engineer (Kevin Hahn), although we kind of sat far from each other. But playing drums is so much fun. I love drumming and it was just nice to move the body about a little bit because in quarantine, everyone, including me, is inside not getting much exercise. I suppose you could exercise inside but it’s not as much fun. It was really fun to play drums and have a reason to move the arms and legs around."
GW: There is so much energy in the record. Do you have to have a clear idea of where the material is going so you can sort of build up to the recording?
Gilbert: "I had the human communication and response of the engineer, and that was really important, just to have somebody who smiles when it’s good and frowns when it’s bad, and to know that you are doing something and someone on the planet is responding to it. I found that really useful. I think when I was in my early twenties I just had so much energy that I was able to do a lot of stuff completely on my own, but as time goes on it is hard to keep up the energy. It’s nice to have that little affirmation, like, "Is this any good?' Then you get a grin. 'Okay! Keep going!'"
GW: You talked about your hearing loss earlier. Did that affect how you recorded this album?
Gilbert: "I try not to listen to click tracks ever, because back in the Mr. Big days, I’d have headphones on and it’d be like tick-tock-ticl-tock… all day. Of course, the way I did this album, I had to do that, at least for the drums, so there was really no way around it. I just tried to get headphones that block some sound and as soon as I got the drums down I would take the click out. But I must admit, that’s one thing that’s nice about playing with a live band."
Read the complete interview here.
Paul Gilbert released his brand-new album, Werewolves of Portland, on June 4th via The Players Club (Steve Lukather, Robby Krieger, Michael Landau, Tommy Emmanuel). Gilbert has captured a stompin’ solo performance video of "Hello North Dakota!" to mark the occasion which can be viewed below.
Gilbert: "Let's start with the things I love. The trees. The rivers. My local guitar repair shop, bakery, and grocery store. Beautiful places for walking and biking. Driving to anything in less than 15 minutes. My musician and recording engineer friends. Small businesses and wonderful restaurants. My son's school and teachers. The pie bakery! I love all these. Then there's that other stuff you see on the news. I don't want to kick Portland while it's down. But if it stays like this, I may need to sneak away. I'm hoping to live somewhere that isn't in the news so much. I haven't heard much about North Dakota lately, which is good. I've actually never been there. I like buffalo. That's a start. Thank you."
With his 16th solo studio album, Paul Gilbert is ready to prove to everyone that, astonishingly, this master continues to raise the bar on what he can achieve. With the international lockdown putting the world on hold, Gilbert decided to, rather than wait, he got on with playing all the instruments on the album himself. "It took me about six months to think of it, but it finally occurred to me that I could play all the instruments myself. I've always loved playing drums, and I can play bass and keyboards well enough to get the job done," he says.
Recorded at Opal Studio in Portland with co-producer and engineer Kevin Hahn, Gilbert pulled out some of his current favourite guitars for the job. "I mostly used my Ibanez Fireman guitars," he says. "I've been collecting vintage Ibanez guitars lately, too. I brought some models from the '70s, '80s, and '90s like the Ibanez Artist, Roadstar II and Ghostrider. I also brought and modified a '60s Epiphone Olympic. I used to play those in the early days of Racer X, so it was fun to have a guitar that reminded me of my early shredder style."
The album title's inspiration partly comes from the Warren Zevon song, "Werewolves Of London".
"I live in Portland and thought it would be funny to substitute the name of my much lesser-known city. My original idea for the Werewolves was just the guys in my band and me. When we play music, it is our version of 'howling at the moon'. Unfortunately, Portland has become more 'known' in the last year for events that are pretty sad to watch. And Werewolves could take on other meanings that I certainly hadn't anticipated. But the title, to me, still has a musical meaning."
Gilbert is a formidable force. From his time in LA metallers Racer X to helping form Mr. Big, one of the era's most revered names. His distinguished solo career has seen him putting out 15 acclaimed records and has been asked to guest on albums from such diverse names as Todd Rundgren, Bowling For Soup, Glenn Hughes and MC Lars. He also toured with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci in 2007 (G3) and two years later with Richie Kotzen and George Lynch (Guitar Generation). This is not to mention a lengthy tenure as a much-in-demand teacher and instructor. This began when he was still a teenager, being hired in 1985 by the prestigious Guitar Institute Of Technology (GIT) in Los Angeles.
"I didn't become a musician to shout my ideas, complaints, or philosophies at anyone. I love music because of the music. So I love my method of using my inner rants as scaffolding to build melodies. This scaffolding can then be pulled away to unveil some pure emotional music. This works perfectly for me and hopefully for my listeners. "I need to be able to visualize the look and sound of my fretboard well enough to play accurately in my mind. It's almost like real air guitar! Then when I actually go to play the music, I've got a good chance of having my melodic intentions come true. And that's about the best feeling in the world."
"Hello North Dakota!"
"Werewolves Of Portland"
"Professorship At The Leningrad Conservatory"
"Argument About Pie"
"I Wanna Cry (Even Though I Ain’t Sad)"
"A Thunderous Ovation Shook The Columns"
"(You Would Not Be Able To Handle) What I Handle Everyday"