When Billy Sheehan left David Lee Roth’s band in 1988, he joined with Paul Gilbert, who had left his former band, Racer X. They founded Mr. Big, with Pat Torpey on drums and singer Eric Martin. With Lean Into It, their second album, which featured the ballad “To Be With You”, which received strong media play and reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Gilbert continued playing in Mr. Big until the late 90s.
Since then Paul Gilbert has enjoyed success with Racer X and lately as an solo artist. His latest release “Silence followed by a Deafening Roar” includes bonus features such as printable tablature, downloadable backing tracks and rare concert footage.
What attracted you to the guitar as a instrument and what was your first guitar ?
PG : I knew I wanted to be a musician. I thought guitar was cool because you can stand up and play it. I liked drums and piano, but I didn’t want to sit down all the time. My first guitar was a Stella acoustic. I recently found one just like it on Ebay. I’m holding it in the photo on the back of my newest instructional DVD.
Who were you guitar influences growing up ?
PG : All the 70’s guitar players. Jimmy Page, Robin Trower, Pat Travers, Eddie Van Halen, Frank Marino, Alex Lifeson, Ace Frehley, Angus Young, Joe Perry, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, Mick Ronson, and lots more.
If you could work with anyone at all (dead or alive) who would you chose and why ?
PG: I wish I could be the drummer for AC/DC when Bon Scott was alive. That would be worth sitting down.
We first came across you through Racer X and your work with Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth band) in Mr Big. What was it like being in one of the biggest rock bands of the 90s ?
PG : It was great of course. Billy was a hero of mine, so it was a great honor to play music with him.
Your latest album Silenced Followed by a Deafening Roar is utterly stunning. It is a technical masterpiece but at the same time beautifully melodic. Do you focus on striking the balance
PG : I just try to make something that I like to listen to. I have a reputation for playing fast and flashy things, so I feel some obligation to deliver that, but I put equal effort into the compositions and into making good arrangements for the other instruments and not just the guitar.
My favourite tracks “I cannot tell a lie” and “I still Have That other Girl” are particularly expressive. How much of tracks like these are planned or is there a degree of improvisation allowed in recording ?
PG : “I Still Have That Other Girl” is an Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach song. I just took the vocal melody and played it on guitar, so there is very little improvisation there. “I Cannot Tell a Lie” is also very planned-out. But I used improvisation to get the initial ideas.
You have always been keen to give back to your fans whether through your tutorials with Total Guitar or your work with the Guitar Institute of Technology. Do you enjoy teaching and do you ever learn from your students ?
PG : I love teaching guitar, but it has nothing to do with “giving back”. My motives are entirely selfish. I love to talk about guitar, think about guitar, and of course, play guitar. Teaching gives me a chance to see the skills, perspectives, and struggles of other musicians. We have a very good time trying to find the best notes to play on our guitars together
You offer fans the opportunity of a 1 to 1 guitar lesson before each gig which is proving exceptionally popular do you ever get any strange requests ?
PG : I have been enjoying the “VIP” lessons very much. Mostly because I have a chance to listen to the students play. We have great jam sessions every day! Everyone has been cool so far. No strange requests, just good creative questions.
Many of our readers are guitarists with computer based home studio setups. Do you use the computer much for home recording or recording on the road.
PG: I use Pro-Tools to record my albums, but I still use a little cassette recorder as a writing tool.
If you were only allowed to take one guitar effect on the road which one would you take and why
PG : A tuner! If I’m out of tune, then nothing sounds good. The Korg Pitchblack tuner is the best one.
You have been a loyal Ibanez player for many years and PGM series still remain a much sought after guitars. What makes Ibanez and the PGM series so special ?
PG : It is a perfectly built musical instrument. Ibanez guitars are easier to play than other brands, and I like my job to be as easy as possible!
You and Marty Friedman (who produced the first instrumental guitar record I bought) are massive in Japan and recently featured in a Marty Friedman versus Paul Gilbert night. You both seemed to know Japanese, was that learned for the show ?
PG: Marty is fluent in Japanese. I have studied for a few years, but I am no where near his level.
What advice would you give young musicians / bands starting off ?
PG : Your ears are as important as your fingers. When you practice, don’t just focus on your fingers. It’s important to LISTEN to how you sound. Record yourself, record your band. Don’t waste time with lots of studio processing. Just listen to performances and be honest with yourself about what needs to improve. Learn and write 100s of songs. That helps!
You design and maintain your own website, do you want to tell readers a little about what the site offers ? Your photoshop experiences are great….?
PG : The internet is a great place for creative freedom. There are no laws or limits. So I try to take advantage of this. Thank for listening to my music!
Links : http://www.paulgilbert.com/