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Ten Questions with...

Latest interview! (May 2008)

Paul Gilbert

Guitarist Paul Gilbert made an impression with Racer X in the 80's and was of course a member of the hugely successful Mr Big. He has just release a 'Best Of' his solo work which is well worth owning!

1. What are you currently up to?

I'm on vacation! I've been taking yoga classes and baking a lot of pies. I did so many records and so much traveling in the last 5 years that I need to take a break.

2. What has been the highlight(s) and lowpoints(s) of your career to date?

I've been really happy to meet some of my musicalheroes. I played Beatles songs backstage with Steven Tyler from Aerosmith, I played drums onstage with Cheap Trick, I've jammed onstage with Rush, and I got to hang out with Eddie Van Halen at his studio.

The only low point is that my left ear is almost deaf!

3. Your new solo work collection is out now. Could you take us through some personal highlights please? Where do the ideas come from for your songs?

I'm happy that I can play rock, classical, pop, and crazy instrumental things as a solo artist. I'm very proud of some of the Bach piano pieces that I've recorded for guitar. I'm glad that I can have high-energy pop songs with crazy guitar. Of course,lots of my inspiration comes from girls.

So there are three songs with the word "Girl" in the title: "Girls Who Can Read Your Mind", "Girl Crazy", and "Girls Watching". There are also songs with girl's names in the title: "Kate is a Star" is about my sister, and "Three Times Rana" is about a girl I knew a long time ago.

4. What made you first want to play guitar and how has your style changed down the years?

My parents had lots of Beatles and Rolling Stones records, so I grew up listening to rock. My uncle, Jimi Kidd, was and is an amazing guitarist, so I was very inspired by him. Of course I listened to so many rock bands and learned the songs and guitar parts. Van Halen, Rush, Aerosmith, Pat Travers, Robin Trower, Frank Marino, Jimi Hendrix, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, U.F.O., Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent, Journey, Ozzy Osbourne with Randy Rhoads, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Triumph, Saxon... There were so many bands that I loved!

How has my style changed? I still love playing fast, heavy metal guitar, but I think I've added other styles to my playing. I'm a lot better at blues and straight rock than I was when I was a teenager.

5. Mr. Big - How did the band come together? Was there a lot of record label pressure to produce hit singles given the band's musical pedigree and past history?

Billy Sheehan put Mr. Big together. I was a huge fan of TALAS, Billy's old band, so it was really an honor to play with him.

I can never complain about record labels. I'm happy with the music I've recorded, and they pay me lots of money!

6. Mr. Big carried on with phenomenal success in the Far East long after the US/European interest started to wane. Why do you think this was?

We were a good band and the Japanese fans liked us. We played some amazing shows over there. Beyond that, I can't explain it.

7. Racer X - Any chance of you working again with the musicians in that band? When Racer X called it a day did you think the band had gone as far as it could musically?

Of course I want to do more RACER X music! I love heavy metal and I love playing with the guys in that band. It was very hard to leave the band in the 80's. They were my best friends and I loved the music. But I was so excited about playing with Billy Sheehan and I felt that Mr. Big was going to be a very successful band.

8. What have been the live highlights for you?

Of course the big audiences are fun. I played for 100,000 people in Brazil. 50,000 in Switzerland, and 35,000 in Indonesia. Those were all great shows and I felt like a rock star. But mostly I'm just happy when I play well! I've played small venues and clubs where I've been so happy with my playing, and these are really the best shows for me.

9. What do you do in your spare time outside of music?

I've just started to do yoga. I'm not very good at it. I'm very tall and I don't bend easily! But it feels so good to stretch myself out. I like to cook, so I make a lot of dinners for my friends. And of course, I have my crazy website, I do the whole site myself.

10. Message to your fans...

I'm only resting now so I can come back stronger when I return! I'm sure I'll be starting some new music soon and I promise it will be killer!


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Interview © 2005 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

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