SC. You know in the 1980's, at least especially in the latter part of the 80's, for your fans, it seems like a lost decade. Seems like you almost disappeared from the scene. There was no mention of you. And you said that you had a flying problem. I gather that is behind you.
RG. Yes, to a great extent. That is only one reason why we didn't go to the States. We just started concentrating in Europe, and I got delayed making certain albums, and plus some of the tours we were offered in America just didn't appeal to us, because it meant going around stadiums playing in front of some other huge rock band or a group that would not have an audience sympathetic to blues or rock and roll.
SC. I understand. I remember you were on with Blue Oyster Cult, and I think Rush. A rather odd combination, I thought.
RG. Yeah, we did a couple of those and they were soul destroying. I mean, we did OK on them. I am prepared to rough it, and I have roughed it before, but I prefer to play in a club or a small theatre if it comes to that. The trouble with the flying thing - I had a couple of bad flights, and this is after hundreds and hundreds of flights. If it happens to you on a bad day it can affect your psyche, you know. I've pretty much cracked that now, because on this last tour, I had to fly to Tokyo and then to Sydney, Australia and then to America and so on and so forth. People think it is wimpish, but when you pick up the paper and find out that Stevie Ray Vaughan got killed, it reminds you that entertainers are not any more important than anybody else, but you do get a little bit cautious, you know.
SC. I understand. Another question: on your album Stage Struck, 1980, I gather. It seemed rather unrepresentative of your music, meaning it was all a rock production. Unlike Irish Tour '74, which you know displayed your entire musical vocabulary. And you are best known for your live performances, and it has been a long, long time since '74 I gather, to have something live out. Does that ring any bells in a sense?
RG. Yeah, the sound on Irish Tour was a better sound, I admit that. We had a lot of difficulty mixing [Stage Struck]. In Europe, besides the eight tracks on the album, there were two extra tracks put in the package on a single, including one acoustic blues balancing out a little bit. Because so many tracks were recorded in different locations, the engineer tried to match up the sound. It is my fault of course, I was there, but it was a little too harsh, and it only gave the hard-rock aspect of what I do, so it is not my favourite album.
SC. Can we hope for something more representative in the future maybe?
RG. Oh, definitely. I mean it is not a bad album.
SC. No it isn't.
RG. I would've liked to have some more different - different shades in it, you know.
SC. I mean something even like Off the Handle would have worked in there, don't you think?
RG. Indeed, and the irony of it is that we recorded so many shows around the world to get that. What we should have done is just gone into a club and stayed for three nights or two nights and just nailed it down. But we thought it was a novel idea at that time. You know, one night in San Francisco, one in Cleveland, one in Australia somewhere, you know what I mean, but quite of ten the more grandiose the project, the less effective it is, you know.
SC. How do you feel about your writing and your musicianship right now? I mean do things come easier now? Are you right on top of your guitar playing?
RG. I think I was in pretty good form on the tour. I am practicing every day. I don't really practice like jazz musicians, but I keep my chops together. I do need a couple of gigs really to get myself back in proper form. There is no way you can do that just playing at home even through an amp and all the rest of it. You need to be out on the road. Once I start rehearsing that will be a step in the right direction. But I have certainly not gone too lazy, I can guarantee you. Writing-wise, I have lots of things on tape and so on that I've got to work on, but I do have to spend a couple of sleepless nights on that yet. I am hoping to go back to Ireland for a few days, and that usually is a good location for working in. There's fewer distractions there. London is a pleasant enough city, it is not all that inspiring sometimes, because like any big city there's a lot of stress. You know what I mean.
SC. You still have family in Ireland.
RG. Yes I do. Yeah, in the south of Ireland.
SC. I guess that's about it. Can we expect you here in the States?
RG. A tour, hopefully yes if I can get all these things put together, you know.
SC. How close are you to finding people?
RG. I've got it narrowed it down to about six.
SC. We are talking about all new personnel, right?
RG. It looks like that. Initially, I am more concerned about drums and bass, 'cause that's what I need for the first week or two, and then if I want to add anything, I will from there. But if I'm gonna get a keyboard or something I would prefer to work with drums or bass alone for a week or two.
SC. Anyway, I am just trying to write a story, and the basic theme of my story is not just the return of another great guitarist, but at least, you know, a lot deeper. Actually the lead of my story pretty much says that: just to borrow the title of your '75 release, you've been going Against the Grain. Something to that effect.
RG. You know the strange thing, Against the Grain, is the name of Boris Yeltsin's new book, that is only by the way, you know.
SC. Oh yeah, he's here in the States right now.
RG. [Laughs] So I have to watch it, you know, but that is only by the way.
SC. He just came to the States last night, and he was on television last night.
RG. I hear he is already criticizing Gorbachev.
SC. [Laughs] He already is. I don't know, but in my view he's come down a few notches. He seems rather like a populist, you know.
RG. I think so.
SC. Some people call him another Mussolini, which is a little scary.
RG. Gorbachev turned out a bit disappointing, but initially, and I think in the long term he will be a better bet than people give him credit for.
SC. I think so, and he'll probably go down as one of the truly great men of this century.
RG. Yes, he struck me as a man with dignity, you know, whereas Yeltsin I imagine can be volatile if things didn't go his way. His appearance looks tough, perhaps that comes in the way of judging him, but we'll see what happens, you know.
SC. Oh, there's another line, which I thought of putting in - that you could quite easily teach a credible college course on blues masters, blues influences and trends.
SC. I mean, I am basing this on an interview you did for Guitar Player back during Photofinish, and said you really have an uncanny understanding and knowledge of it all.
RG. Thanks very much.
SC. I am trying to write a 1500-word story, but I think it is going to be cut down to 800 words by the editors, you know for space.
RG. I hope Steve sends it on to me, I look forward to reading it when you got it put together.
SC. We'll see - again like I told Steve, no promises, one never knows what the editors do with it.
SC. It is really a pleasure talking to you.
SC. And I really followed your music for a long, long time. It's brought me a lot of happiness, so I really thank you.
RG. Thank you very much.
SC. And good luck and all success to you.
RG. Thanks very much indeed.
SC. Bye, Rory
RG. Nice talking to you. bye, bye. See you.
(c) 1995 by Shiv Cariappa
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