dimanche, septembre 05, 2004

Keith Richards Guitar World vers 1995

Keith Richards is going to be a grandfather.

The blessed event should come later this spring, when the wife of his oldest child, Marlon, gives birth to the latest member of the Richards clan. Somehow, the notion of Keith, he of the skull-shaped ring, the wicked smile and the omnipresent bottle of Jack Daniels, as "Grandpa" is, well, odd.
"I'm joining the crowd,'' says the 52-year-old guitarist, alluding to others who have already entered the grizzled ranks of rock star grandparents--including good buddies Ringo Starr and Bob Dylan.
"I'm designing my little grandpa suit," cackles Richards. "I'll get a bag of candy in the pocket and grow a moustache or something.''
Grant Richards his good humor. He hasn't exactly called to chat about progeny, but about the Rolling Stones' bouncing new album, "Stripped." Unlike the band's last five releases, it's a live album, recorded during the European and Japanese legs of their "Voodoo Lounge" tour.
"Stripped" (Virgin) showcases the Stones playing in small clubs and even smaller rehearsal halls, though it does include its share of arena style rock--check out their anthemic, singalong version of Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone.'' For the most part, the album represents the Stones' entry into the widespread acoustic fray though, characteristically, on their own terms--not under the aegis of MTV Unplugged. The band that recorded "Country Home," "No Expectations" and "As Tears Go By" can do their own acoustic album, thank you.
"We had to do quite a lot of rehearsal to do the numbers for the theaters and clubs," Mick Jagger explains. "For those shows, we wanted a different kind of feel, a much more intimate feel. We were looking for different songs that would fit in with a different attitude.
"Doing the small shows was fun," Jagger adds. "It wasn't just for the record, you know? It gave a good vibe to the tour."
Not that "Stripped" isn't influenced by MTV's enormously popular series. Much of the album features bare-bones arrangements of familiar material--hits--including "Angie'' and a particularly searing "Street Fighting Man." Also included, however, are the kind of obscurities usually found in a box set, like the rarely heard "I'm Free,'' "The Spider And The Fly'' and "Shine A Light."
"Stripped" reminds us that the Stones are far more than the stadium rock juggernaut we've known for the past two decades. It's an important lesson. As songs like "Wild Horses" and "No Expectations" attest, the acoustic guitar has been an important part of the Stones' sound practically since their inception, and a necessary tool for conveying the country and blues roots of even their most explosive rock and roll.

GUITAR WORLD: "Stripped" is clearly a different kind of live album for the Stones. Was that the intention from the beginning?
KEITH RICHARDS: At the beginning of the tour, we realized that if we didn't watch out, we'd end up with "Voodoo Lounge Live At The Stadium." Both the band and Virgin said, "Nah, enough already." O.K., so now I've got a negative directive; I know what we don't want. But what do we want?
The germ of the idea came from rehearsals for the tour. We were rehearsing for six weeks, doing five or six, maybe 10 to 12 hours a day in there, listening to playbacks every night, just to check the sound and do the usual night watchman bit. They started to sound good. The tracks had a certain different feel--the guys think they're not recording, they're working and playing and having fun. So that's where the germ of the idea started.
GW: What made the spirit of the playing so different?
RICHARDS: Size. Most of these tracks--all but three--were done in a little room, with the whole band thrown in, no overdubs. You're live, but there's no audience. You catch the guys unaware--that's the kind of feel on it. You get a chance to play some of the old songs again, maybe put in a few licks you wish you'd put in the first time. [laughs]
GW: Like what?
RICHARDS: The original of "Street Fighting Man" is all-acoustic. Ever since then, for nearly 30 years, we've been playing it electric on stage. To be able to play that acoustically again, in its original instrumentation, that's a turn-on. I never thought I'd do that again.
GW: Ron Wood is an accomplished acoustic player, with a real acoustic soul. How much of a factor was that in deciding to do this kind of album?
RICHARDS: We're all like that. If Ronnie and I jam on the road, it's in a hotel room with two acoustic guitars. The Stones have always been that way, especially in the early days. We were a heavily acoustic band. All the songs on this album were all-acoustic in the first place. And there's plenty more. So there's no real difference for us. We're as accustomed to playing acoustic as we are electric. It's just fun to get it on tape, finally.
GW: How do you decide what songs to include on the album?
RICHARDS: You don't. You do them all and then decide what you're gonna leave off. That's when you go to the surgery and start cutting. It's better than not having enough. We had 30 or 40 songs, something like that.
We did a lot of arguing. That's a process I'd love to film with a little spy camera--the Stones sitting around a room, arguing. There's Mick in there trying to be democratic: "Put your hand up for this song, your hand up for that song." I sit in the back putting all my hands up for everything [laughs], trusting that the album will find itself in its own way. For all the lists of tunes I've ever drawn up, I don't think any albums have actually come out that way. You finish and then the record company calls and says, "Oh, we want two more tracks." Good-bye list.
GW: Did you refer much to the original versions of the songs?
RICHARDS: Just to pick up the lyrics or the odd chord change. We didn't study them or anything like that. It's 25, 30 years later; you're not going to play it the same. You wouldn't want to. But you wouldn't want to do it that differently, either. You want to remember, "What was I going for when I did it the first time?" and then do it a little more grown-up this time.
GW: The Rolling Stones, grown-up?
RICHARDS: Yeah. [laughs] The beat's more relaxed, more fluid, I think. I don't think anything's lost its edge. There's just a little more depth to everything. Mick is singing better than ever, the best I've heard him. And I've got to say, Darryl Jones--hey, this guy makes a big difference, too. You change the bass player, you're changing your engine room. But the way Darryl and Charlie hooked up from the beginning, that was a joy to me. That was a potential make-me-nervous situation; finding the right guy was all-important. Mr. Jones sounds better than I'd hoped for.
GW: The "Stripped" version of "Love In Vain," not surprisingly, brought to mind the version on "Let It Bleed." How did you develop that arrangement, which differs tremendously from the Robert Johnson original?
RICHARDS: Sometimes things just happen. We were sitting in the studio, saying, "Let's do `Love In Vain' by Robert Johnson." Then I'm trying to figure out some nuances and chords, and I start to play it in a totally different fashion. Everybody joins in and goes, "Yeah," and suddenly you've got your own stamp on it. I certainly wasn't going to be able to top Robert Johnson's guitar playing.
GW: The Stones have always done a lot of covers, but did "Love in Vain" feel a little more "holy" than others?
RICHARDS: All music is holy, you know? You can have profane versions of things. So as far as I'm concerned, you can either have a good version of a piece of music or a bad one. It doesn't matter if you change or expand it. I think if Johnson heard ours, he wouldn't turn his nose up. I think he'd prefer to be alive, too. [laughs]
GW: Much of "Stripped" has a distinctly country flavor. Who are your primary influences in that genre?
RICHARDS: [Country rock pioneer] Gram Parsons and many other guys you can pull out. Ian Stewart, too. They still join the band when we're playing, in one form or another. You carry little shades of them with you. I've listened to it since I was growing up, along with jazz and classical. It was the BBC and that was it. My mother was very musically inclined.. I grew up listening to really good music, a lot of it too sophisticated for a kid, like Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstine, Ella Fitzgerald and Count Basie. At the same time, we had George Jones, Ernest Tubb, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams; I grew up with them as well.
So to me, country music comes quite naturally--after all, those melodies basically originate in England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland. The playing is not very difficult, it's just that the studs and rhinestones are hard to find in England! [laughs]
GW: So what is the state of the Stones these days?
RICHARDS: It's never been better, really. That's the medical bulletin today. I've never seen Charlie Watts so happy on the road; he's a happy guy, normally, but the road can get to anybody. He's brought his old lady with him more, and I think he's enjoying playing with Darryl, playing with the Stones. I think part of that comes from taking his own thing around, the jazz band. He took it around the world, and he learned a lot, found a lot more enjoyment and possibilities of playing.
And Mick is extremely charming these days, even to me. We're getting along great. The band just feels good about itself, which is why we're going back on the road.
GW: Is it possible that you guys just appreciate what the Stones are more than you have in the past?
RICHARDS: The Stones always have to look for the Stones in themselves. We're still going. People's idea of the Stones changes from when they first heard them; there's myriad ideas and concepts of what the Stones are to listeners, just depending on how long they've known us. We're constantly going forward as well, always looking for the Stones in the same way. Sometimes you screw it up, but most times it gives us some encouragement that we'll find it again. It's very much a focused band, a lot of direction and energy. You can't ask for more than that.
GW: Because you really seem focused on the Stones now, does that effect whatever need you may feel for solo projects?
RICHARDS: Yeah, in a way. But I wonder where the Stones would be if I hadn't gone solo. I learned a lot of things--about being a front man, about how tight a band can be, has to be. Maybe the Stones are tighter because of that.
GW: Does it feel like old times, with the release of "Stripped" almost coinciding with "The Beatles Anthology"?
RICHARDS: It is funny, after all these years, the Beatles and Stones going head to head again. I saw George [Harrison] in London; he was in the middle of getting it together and he came to see a show. He was bemoaning the fact that he doesn't have his band. He said, "You lucky bastards!"
GW: So what's next for the Stones?
RICHARDS: We've got these dates in Asia and whatnot, and after that, I don't know. I guess everybody will kick back for a bit, mull it over. You see what you've got and what you feel like. All I want to do is make good records--I always have. I've been very fortunate to be able to get into the studio with some good bands and do that.