Ipswich: Gilby talks Guns N’ Roses as he prepares for Regent gig

He was in the biggest rock band in the world and he’s coming to Ipswich. Ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke talks to entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE about his appetite for rock.

He was a 17-year-old punk from Cleveland who dreamt of making it big in Hollywood, but as Clarke says: “You have to dream big. Those that don’t stay on the couch.”

Some dreams do come true though and, after a few false starts, he replaced Izzy Stradlin in Guns N’ Roses at the height of their fame; spending three years on the enormous Use Your Illusion world tour that began in late ‘91.

“[It was] awesome... I was ready for it when it went down. I was in two bands that hadn’t had that success so I was ready for the big time. It was important to me to be myself and make sure they accept me for who I am and how I played,” says Clarke, who appeared on the GnR albums The Spaghetti Incident, Live Era ’88 – ’91 and the Greatest Hits.

“The tour was awesome; living my dream with a great band, playing great music in front of thousands of fans. Guns was a great time for me as a musician.

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“It was everything I was looking for when I set out. The band had great songs, musicianship and success. I knew it was gonna be hard, but it was worth the effort.”

Up till then, tinseltown hadn’t been that kind to Clarke, hailed an old-school mash-up of Keef, Johnny Thunders and BB King.

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“Hollywood was a great scene and there were so many good bands all competing for the venues. It’s still amazing to see how many successful bands came from Los Angeles in the 80s,” he remembers.

Pop rock outfit Candy was the first band he joined; but he always felt they needed a harder edge.

“We made a record and did a couple tours. It wasn’t really taking off so I started another band that was a lil’ harder, Kill for Thrills [described as a big riff quartet for who he wrote most of the tunes]. I think KFT was good, but we kinda got lost in the shuffle and didn’t really succeed like I was hoping.”

After GnR disintegrated, he went down the solo route.

“I only set out on my own because there were no bands to join at that time. After coming off the Guns’ experience it was hard to find a band that inspired me. It was important to me to keep writing and performing; I set out to make one record and now I’ve made five.”

He’s played guitar for some great bands since - MC5, Nancy Sinatra, Heart and Rockstar: Supernova, a reality television show where 15 contestants battled it out to become the lead vocalist of a newly-formed supergroup comprising M�tley Cr�e drummer Tommy Lee, ex-Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and Clarke.

Clarke’s jam nights in LA are standing-room-only and he can still be seen rocking out with the Blues Mafia, The Starf*****s and on occasional solo dates worldwide.

He’s no one-chord pony though, having sharpened his studio skills at his own recording unit. He’s produced material by the likes of LA Guns, Beat Angels, Rolling Stone Best New Artist choice The Bronx and Alice Cooper.

Playing is where his heart belongs though.

“I love the creative process of producing and working with a band or artists. To capture that point of their musical dream is exciting.

“But I always prefer playing. I’m a guitarist first and foremost so it doesn’t matter if it’s recording or performing; playing the guitar is my first love.”

For now, keeping playing is what Clarke intends to do; continuing to write songs and perform live. He promises fans who turn out at the Ipswich Regent’s Circle Lounge this Sunday “A great rock ‘n’ roll show played at a loud volume”.

“I would love to start a new band, but I tried that with Rock Star: Supernova and it didn’t work out. So if a good band comes along, I will join.”

Perhaps I can interest him in my Bangles tribute act idea...

Support for this Sunday’s gig, brought to town by promoters KD Leisure, comes from Badmouth, Voodoo Vegas and The Guns N’ Roses Experience.

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