Interviewed by Mark Dean and Jimmy Little Junior (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
1. On your latest solo album you have recorded a fantastic version of Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”, why Elton? And why that particular song?
PG: The melody has a lot of motion to it… really big interval jumps, and surprising chord modulations. It translates well to become an instrumental track. When I play a melody on guitar, I don’t have lyrics or a vocal texture to use, so having an interesting melody is really helpful. Why Elton? He’s a great writer. I’ve been a fan of his music since I was a kid. Before I ever played the guitar, I wanted to sing like Elton.
2. In 2014 do you feel any pressure being Paul Gilbert the guitar hero virtuoso as compared to say 1987 when everyone seemed to be in competition?
PG: I established my reputation as a fast, heavy metal guitar player, so many people have that expectation of me. It’s like being a “product.” If I’m known as “milk,” then people can get upset or confused if I suddenly taste like “orange juice.” My music and guitar style have been expanding for a long time, so although I have changed, I don’t think that it’s anything too sudden. Overall, I just like playing guitar, and I just try to connect to whatever song I’m playing.
3. The new Mr.Big album has a fresh live sound, was it recorded in a live setting, or what was the process in light of Pat Torpeys diagnosis?
PG: Thanks for listening to “The Stories We Could Tell…” We took advantage of the recording studio to make the album… both to help Pat produce the drum parts, and also to put together our performances, because we sometimes had different touring schedules. But we know what we want the band to sound like, so we just keep working until it’s right.
4. You have now done some live shows with Mike Starr sitting in on drums, how has that changed the dynamics of the band on stage?
PG: Matt has done a great job, and Pat has helped him by coming to all the rehearsals and also traveling with us on tour. Actually Pat gets onstage with us every night to play a few songs and sing. He’s still very much a part of the band. I’m proud of him that he is doing everything he can, even with the challenges of his condition.
5. What does future hold for Mr.Big?
PG: As much music and good times as we can possibly have! We don’t make a lot of specific plans. We just get together when we’re in the mood for some Mr. Big music.
6. In 2014 record companies don’t seem to have the same power they did 20 years ago, artists now have more creative control over their albums, this can be a good thing and a bad thing, how does that affect Mr.Big or Paul Gilbert as a solo artist?
PG: It’s a bit more work to produce albums myself and take care of all the artwork and promotional stuff. But I still spend most of my time with music and guitar, so I can’t complain. I just do whatever I need to do to have a job as a musician. So far, so good.
7. With Billy doing The Winery Dogs thing, have you ever considered working with others Artists in a band setting?
PG: Over the years, I’ve thought about it. When I did my “Spaceship One” album, I thought that a band with Linus of Hollywood and Marco Minnemann might be good. We were all tall and skinny with similar haircuts, and willing to wear spacesuits. I also did an album with Freddie Nelson that could have been the seeds of a band. But we look very different from each other. Since I grew up with the Beatles, somehow I always feel like band members should look similar to each other. That can be a challenge for me, since I’m unusually tall, and I don’t really have a distinctive way of dressing.
8. Following on from the previous question is there any artist that you would love to collaborate with?
PG: At the moment, I’m working on my blues playing and melodic improvisation a lot. I get a lot of inspiration by listening to great jazz improvisers. I like jazz clarinet and saxophone, so it would be cool to jam with those instruments. All the records that I’m listening to are old, so I don’t really know who is around now that I might jam with. I’ll have to do some research. And of course, if Paul McCartney ever needs another guitar player, I could make some time for that. Or if AC/DC needs a drummer, I’m up for that too.
9. You have just done a short Tour with Mr.Big, can we expect a longer tour anytime, or is just hard to find time with everyone schedules?
PG: I’m right in the middle of the Mr. Big tour. We’re having a good time! This first leg is nearly two months. That seems long to me, since I just had my first child. I’m hoping to spend some time at home so I can make sure that he listens to lots of Beatles songs, blues guitar, and Bach harpsichord inventions.
10.What was the lowest point of your career?
PG: When I was six years old, I took some guitar lessons from a really boring teacher. I decided to quit guitar and become a drummer. The drum teacher was boring too, so I gave up playing for a few years. That could be a low point, but I was still listening to music all the time, and mentally preparing myself to be a musician, so it really wasn’t too bad. Ever since I was nine years old I’ve been playing guitar, and as long as it’s in my hands, I’m doing great!
11.What has been your biggest waste of money-perhaps at the height of Mr Bigs success in the Mtv era of the eighties?
PG: I just try to save what I make, or reinvest in recording equipment so I can keep making music. I’ve had great managers over the years, and I’m very thankful to them.
12.What can you do apart from music-any interests/hobbies that you indulge in your spare time.
PG: On tour, I read a lot. I like good food, and I used to cook a lot. But a couple years ago I started an online rock guitar school, so most of my extra time goes to that. And of course I’m a father now, so I want to spend time with my boy
13.What was your first memory of hearing music-a particular song or concert maybe?
PG: My parents had a great record collection… lots of Beatles and Rolling Stones. My dad listened to blues, 50’s doo-wop, punk, and classical music. The Beatles records were my favorites. I listened to “A Hard Day’s Night,” “Help,” and “Yellow Submarine” all the time.
14.What life lessons has the music industry and your career as a musician taught you?
PG: I know that it is rare to have a job as a rock guitar player, so I really appreciate my situation and work hard to sustain it. When I was seventeen, I moved to Hollywood to go to G.I.T., a guitar school. Around this time, I was reading “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. The characters she created in her fiction were unstoppable in reaching their goals. I was inspired to do the same. That was an exciting time.
15.Finally after doing many interviews over the years.If you could be the interviewer,who would you pick as an person to talk to-why have you chosen them and what would you ask them. Living or dead and not necessarily a musician.
PG: I interviewed Robin Trower a few years ago, and really enjoyed that. Besides that? Maybe Carl Sagan or Charles Schulz. Or Gary Moore. So many good people. But I think I’m better off being a guitar player.