Yeah, they’re cool. As far as different amps,
I used an old Fenton Weill on the solo for
“Maggie May.” It was like, more or less, a
converted radio—it’s a bit like the Champ
amp is. There’s a bit of distortion already built
in, just because of the old valves and stuff.
So, even though it sounds like you’re really
hooked on old classic gear, do you ever try
out new boutique stuff? There are so many
companies trying to recapture the old
handwired amp sound.
And they do a damn good job. Sometimes
I can’t tell the difference between a valve
amp and a modern job, y’know. But, you just
put it to the test. I mean, if it can survive a
tour—a heavy beating on a tour—then it’s
the sign of a good amp.
Off the top of your head, what were
some of the highlights of the sessions
with these big-name guitarists? Let’s
start with Billy Gibbons.
Well, Billy Gibbons is very bossy for a start.
He went like, “We’ve got this riff, right.”
[Sings short ascending lick.] And I’d go
[sings descending melody]. “No, not that!
No, just play the lick. Play that.” And I’d go,
“Okay, Billy.” So we’d play that together.
And then when it comes time to let it rip,
he’d go, “You take it your way and I’ll take
it mine, and I’ll meet you in the middle.” He
was just great fun, and he’s a very enthusiastic, creative person. And I love to bounce
off that creativity.
And he played on two songs right?
Yeah. When we finished “Thing About You,”
I said, “Oh, I’m working on this other song
called ‘I Gotta See.’ How about I play it to
you.” And when he heard it he went, “Oh!
[Sings rhythm line.] It needs that kind of
approach.” I said, “Yeah, perfect! Go for it.”
He just did that in one take.
How about the most memorable moments
152 PREMIER GUITAR NOVEMBER 2010
Well, every time he’s there, he’s always in the
same mood. He’s never upset. He’s never
over-the-top happy or sad. He’s always like
[in quiet, ultra-laidback voice], “Hey, awe-
some, man.” He’s like, “Hey, man, I really
enjoyed that.” That’s the most he ever gets
worked up, like, “Hey, that’s really good,
man.” I just had him on my radio show. We
filmed that, as well, when he was in the
studio for this program for Absolute [UK
radio station Absolute Classic Rock], which
is really great. We do 52 programs, one for
each week of the year. I go through archive
stuff. I play everything from the first rock
’n’ roll song right through a bit of Mozart,
bit of Marley, and up to people like Regina
Spektor and a little of what’s happening
now. It’s a great exercise for me, and it is a
very educational program.
How about Flea? He’s obviously a monster bass player, and half the bass-playing
kids in the world worship him, but on
the songs he’s on he’s just rock-solid—no
showing off whatsoever.
I just like to let him take it his way. I didn’t
have to tell him what to play. I was just happy
to see that he was happy with his groove, and
it was great to see him working with someone like Keltner. They really got along well.
And then you would get people like [long-time Stones bassist] Darryl Jones juxtaposed
against people like [session drummer] Steve
Ferrone. There were some nice, interesting
things happening. And [bassist] Rick Rosas,
you know, he’s a good old solid from the Neil
Young days. Good people. Good teamwork.
Bob Rock also played on two songs, and
he’s known for his production work with
huge bands like Metallica. What was it like
having him on there?
He’s a real gentleman, and he’s a real fan. I
didn’t realize he grew up listening to what I
played, y’know, when he was in short pants.
He knows more about what I did than I
do. [Laughs.] It was great to work with him
being a fan and a creative person. And he
was only too happy to say, “Ronnie, I’ve got
these songs [Rock co-wrote “Lucky Man”
and “Catch You”]. I’d love to hear the way
you would interpret them.”
As a musician, as a guitarist, and as an
artist you’ve conquered the creative
world several times over.
I’m not finished yet—you’ve gotta be
What motivates you to pick up a guitar
Is playing guitar in a band different now
from how it was 30 years ago?
No, except I’m that much older now. I’m a
bit wiser. But some of the things don’t work
like they used to—I tore the arse out of ’em
years ago. [Laughs.] But I’m lucky to still be
alive, I suppose, to have survived everything.
I’m really grateful. I’m a lucky man.
Photo by Jack English
How often do you play, if you’re not preparing for an album or tour?
Not often enough. I have guitars sitting
around—I’ve got them all in my room now,
for instance. I might pick it up in passing and
just play a little lick and walk on, because
I’m always so busy. I get in these modes. I’ll
get in an art mode, and then I have to keep
painting. And then I get in a musical mode,
and that’s when I keep playing. Luckily, these
moods and these shifts of inspiration come
at the right time to keep me off the street.
Y’know, to keep me satisfied. [Laughs.]
Before the interview, we tweeted our
readers and viewers inquiring what they
wanted us to ask you, and some wanted
to know how your painting informs your
guitar playing—or vice versa.
Well, sometimes I play to a painting and
sometimes I paint to music. They’re so
closely related, because when you’re doing
a painting, it’s like overdubbing. You know,
you put the backing track there, and then
you come through with the guitars, and the