dimanche, septembre 05, 2004

Keith Richards - Playboy Germany 1998 (extrait)

From the lastest edition of Playboy Germany.
© 1998 Playboy Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

It is utter turmoil at the reception of the Four Seasons Hotel in Tokyo. Front desk manager Danilo Zucchetti, one of the most likable people I have ever met, is surrounded by three American couples vociferously complaining about last night's disturbance. Danilo looks positively desperate. What happened? It is quite simple: The Rolling Stones have booked into the hotel and their crazy guitarist has lived up to his image being the world's longest-serving rock'n'roller. After a two-hour Playboy interview, Keith had spent a gig-free early night playing guitar and listening to music until the early hours of the morning. And as is normal for him, it was played at an extreme volume!
During our interview, Keith discovers himself to be a brilliantly intelligent partner trying to pull all the stops of eloquence: moody and funny remarks, amusing bon mots, furious British humor; but we also hear thoughtful remarks from a man who has seen all the highs and lows of the rock'n'roll business. Richards, 54, is a truly elemental force: With his face furrowed like a ploughed field, with gray wiry hair, his fingers slightly gouty, without an ounce of fat on his lean body, chain smoking and drinking vodka, he sits opposite me. He wears a T-shirt with his waistcoat, some indeterminate pair of jeans and worn leather galoshes. A long scarf is dangling from his belt and he is wearing the inevitable skull ring on his right ring finger.
Two hours and one bottle of Moskovskaya (red label) later, I know more. More about the Stones, their current "Bridges To Babylon" tour, a hydraulic bridge, a Rasta band named Wingless Angels, Elton "Sir Brown Nose" John and the said skull ring.
PLAYBOY: A different subject: Keith Richards, the producer. You have just produced a record with the Wingless Angels. How did this come into existence?
RICHARDS: It was pure coincidence, totally unplanned. After the "Voodoo Lounge" tour, I wanted to go on holiday, to my house in Jamaica. I deserved that. Hanging around with the brothers for a while, smoking a bit, playing a bit, all those things you do on a little paradise island. I've known the guys since 1971 or 1972. They're from a Rastafarian town. We met on the beach. They didn't know anything about the Stones and all the fuss. It was great, because I was able to keep my anonymity. They watched and heard me play the guitar and invited me over. This music, someone from Africa once said, is more African than African music itself. It's been surviving there in the jungle hills for hundreds of years without influences from the outside. Voices, drums, that's it. Without planning anything, we started playing for fun. They brought the drums into my house and I was utterly fascinated with the beauty of this music. One night, we went in my Range Rover to the studio in Kingston, 15 Rastas with their drums. And I knew instantly - that won't work. You can't put them in a sterile studio. It's too regulated. Well, we thought, then we'll keep it to ourselves. Not for the public!
PLAYBOY: And how did the story go on?
RICHARDS: Very mysteriously. As I said, in 1995, after the "Voodoo Lounge" tour, I was in Jamaica. I met the guys again and a representative of the Jamaican Film Board heard one of our sessions. That's got to be recorded, he said, and I told him about the unsuccessful attempt a few years ago. A few days later, a mobile recording studio showed up in front of my house - a "present" from the man from the Film Board. Well, fine, but who was supposed to operate the equipment? The next day, there's a knock on my door, and the only person in the world who could record something like this, stood there in front of me - Rob Faboni, who had got married in Jamaica, and who knew the guys. It was really strange. It dawned on me that my holiday would be entirely canceled, and that some secret forces somewhere had become active. My house was turned into a studio: drums, microphones, cables etc. After a month, about halfway through the project, Chris Blackwell (the founder of Island Records and who initiated the worldwide success of reggae music) appeared and said: "Once you've finished recording, I would be delighted to release the record!" This was when I knew: "Hey, we're really doing some work here."
PLAYBOY: You did play the guitar for this production, didn't you?
RICHARDS: Yes, I found that to be a very special honor. Normally, all instruments, apart from the drums, are an absolute no-no for these serious Rasta songs. But the boys insisted on me taking part in it. We then went to New York with the basic recordings and I wondered what other instrumental elements could be added at all. I could think of only one person who would fit in: Frankie Gavin, an Irishman, who masters about any instrument you can possibly think of: violin, concertina, flutes and many others. He is the sort of person who can play with Peruvian musicians just as well as with Irish folk groups or Hungarian Gypsies. All of a sudden, there was a knock on my door and Frankie Gavin stood outside, asking me, "I happened to be in town and I wonder whether you've got some work for me?" Everything just fell into place. Jah had a hand in it. I knew then who I was working for (laughs).