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Interviews  Paul Rodgers From The Road To Jacksonville


Interview by Philippe Archambeau and Dominique Turgot.
Questions prepared by
John Molet and Dominique Turgot.

 

Paul Rodgers

What were your main influences while growing up ?
When I was a kid, we always used to have the radio on and I used to listene to a lot of the pop of that time. When I was 4 or 5 or something so, I was interested in music. When I got to be about 11 or 12, I started to hear Elvis Presley 'cause my sister was playing and then the Beatles came along, the Rolling Stones came along, and whern I was 12 or 13, I digged a little deeper to find their influences and that's when I discovered blues. So, people like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, BB King, Ray Charles, you know blues and soul. And Otis Redding of course. That's been my love ever since in many ways.

To me, the tribute to Muddy Waters is an excellent album. I love it.
Thank you.

How did you choose the guitar players for this album ?
Well, actually it evolved. I started out thinking which songs should I include, you know. Which are the best songs to include ? And I did a lot of homework. I found some amazing live tracks, live albums that he had done like "Hoochie Coochie Man", those classic they did. In the end, I decided that I would stick to what I called "the best of Muddy" 'cause I think some of these things are the best tracks, and they were really good ones, "Hoochie Coochie Man" and all this kind of things. And that's the basics from which I worked. I wanted to re-arrange it, to be a little creative with it and maintain the spirit of the blues. And each track suggested a guitar player for me, you know. And that's how we did it, really. So I did a list of all the guitar players who would be ideal for each track. We sort of laughed because we said "Well, there's no way all these people are gonna come and play on the album". But we phoned them and you know it was magic the way everyone said "Yes, I'd love to", you know Jeff Beck, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, Brian May from Queen, and Neal Schon, and even Buddy Guy came along. So it was a magic time.

I remember hearing you on a live broadcast show jamming with Poppa Chubby at the Chesterfield Café a few years ago. Do you remember this night ?
I don't. You know I did a lot of dates with the blues album in these bluesy feel types of places.

Do you often jam with friends ?
Yes I do, even on the new DVD, I invited Neal Schon and Slash and I said "Bring your guitar because you're gonna play". So these guys came up and they played on "Wishing Well", which again is even a unique song for Bad Company because it's really in the Free area of things. We had a lot of guests stars, they didn't play but they came backstage. Mick Jones from Foreigner came. Slash, Neal Schon.

You did a tour with Slash ?
Yes, well actually, we did a few dates , we did Woodstock together. And I played in London with him. I played in Frankfurt with him once. You know, he comes to my shows and I go and jam with him in his shows, so that's quite a nice thing.

I saw you in Paris at l'Elysée Montmartre with the Paul Rodgers Band in '93.
Oh did you ? with the solo band ? With the blues album, we played all over the world in all kinds of blues clubs, with Neal Schon. He's a great guitar player. We had a lot of fun with him. We used to soundcheck, we were supposed to do it for an half of hour long. We did it all the afternoon, just playing all these songs. And the set of the show actually got longer and longer. You know, I think it was a two or three hours set by the time. And we did all kinds of blues, all kinds of solo stuff, we did Hendrix, you know just for the joy of playing, that was wild. And that was why we eventually put a tribute album to Jimi Hendrix as well because we had so many Hendrix songs in the set. I went to the record company asking them if they would like some live tracks, some Hendrix tribute in a way, and we recorded the show live down in Miami, on July 4th that year.

Today, is there a musical style you love more than the others ?
I have very wide tastes in music. I like everything that sounds good, I don't limit myself to a particular genre of music cause I think it crosses over. The very best of jazz, the very best of soul, the very best of blues, ther's a connexion beween all those things. I watched a movie recently called "O Brother Where Art Thou ?". It's got some fantastic music in it. It's like old country. There's a song called "Man of constant sorrow" which I don't know what you would call it, if it is blues or so (Paul sings the two first sentences of this song, Waouh !!! that voice !!!). I don't even know if that's country or blues or folk or what that is, it doesn't matter, it just sounds good. And there's a lot of good stuff in that movie. I bought the soundtrack to it cause it's just great music.

How did you react while seeing new kinds of music coming, such as techno, rap… ? Do you like it ?
Hmmmm… Some of it, it's not really my cup of tea. I mean, it's a free world. People can do their own thing. I can think, I mean I'm not saying to me other I don't really like rap because it seems very violent. But I have to accept this is something brand new. You know, it's not been done before in history I guess. It's unique but this is not really something I would do myself, I don't think. I don't know. You know, may be I'm old fashioned or something but I like the songs.

Many southern rock bands say Free and Bad Co had a great influence on their music. Do you have an idea why ?
I would think possible because we took a lot of the music from the same roots that they did, from the same blues artists, you know John Lee Hooker people and that Delta thing. We took it over to England and it all incubated in England. We took it somewhere else because we were separated from their scenes. And it probably sounded unique to them. But I still have that feel. It's british in a way, but it's our version of blues or southern rock I should say.

What does southern rock represents to you ?
Well I don't know. It's a groove, isnt' it ? It's a really good groove. I like it, I like anything that moves me, you know.

We've read you've been asked to replace Ronnie Van Zant for the Tribute Tour back in '87. Is it a lengend ?
We were so drunk all the time, I can't remember (laughs). Those guys are wild guys. I love those guys. They lived a dangerous lifestyle in many ways but we were very very good friends. I don't know why they often asked me to sing with them but we always have a good feeling together, you know. Actually, Gary Rossington, when I played my solo tour, in England a couple years back, and we finished at the Royal Albert Hall, Gary flew all the way from America just to jam on a couple of songs, which is a beautiful thing.

He seems to be a very good friend of yours.
He's a great guy, a great guitar player, yeah.

He was very influenced by Paul Kossof.
Yes, indeed. We jammed many times. I've always been surprised the way he chooses his notes because they're so beautiful, you know (Paul sings some notes Gary could play).

The slow vibrato, and so
Yeah, yeah and those long notes.

Ronnie VanZant often said you and Gregg Allman were his two favorite singers. Did you ever know that ?
Well, it's nice to hear

What were your relations with Ronnie VanZant? You've done many dates with the Lynyrd Skynyrd band.
Well, yeah. We were good friends, you know. It was a long time ago now. We would see each other, we would jam, we'ld go out together. It was a really good time. Nice guy.

You're fronting the Paul Rodgers Group and Bad Company, is the musical approach different in the two bands ?
With the solo band, I guess I'm more experimental. I've always tried, in the past, to keep each band, each thing that I did separately. Free was Free, the Firm was the Firm, Bad Company was Bad Company, the blues was the blues you know. When I play my solo band, I actually mix, you know, together, all comes together and I play music from "All Right Now" to "Satisfaction Guaranteed", "Muddy Waters blues", so it's all mixed. Like "Rock and Roll Fantasy" that I played at The Cavern and I wanted to play some sort of respect to the Beatles, so I did two songs in "Rock and Roll Fantasy", with my solo band in Liverpool. And that stayed with me. Actually, I brought that to Bad Company because I thought it was a good thing to do. Even doing "All Right Now" with Bad Company, it's kind of a little bit unique because Bad Company never did that. Also "Wishing Well" on the DVD. So, the one helps the other. But I'm really focused on Bad Company this year and next year. I'll think of my solo band probably after that.

I personally love the song "Shooting Star", especially the lyrics.
Thank you.

Did you write it thinking to someone else ? Did you refer to somebody ?
Yes, a lot of people in mind. In the music business, they were a lof of casualties and it's not a war zone. They kind of missed the point. The point is the music, you know and not the parties and all that stuff that intend to go on. The purpose of being a musician is to make music and keep itself together. "Shooting Star" came to me as an idea. It's about all the people that didn't survive. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, John Bonham, Keith Moon, who else ? There 's just so many people and it's still happening to these days. So, it's about all these people.

Did you plan some dates in France ?
Well, we're touring in America on June and July. The management is working on an europeoan tour right now. I know there are some dates in England and I hope wel'll come to France too. And after that, we'll go to Japan. So, I hope so.

It's been a long time since you came in France.
Yeah, it's been a long time, isn't it ? It's really nice to see the place again.

John remembers seeing you on stage in a festival in Orange back in '75. Do you remember ?
Yes I do, Orange with Bad Company. I remember rehearsing "Run with the pack" there with Bad Company. It's a beautiful place. Isn't it a place with a roman type of architeture ?

I didn't really know this place but Philippe surely knows.
Philippe : Yes, there's an old roman circus there.

Hey Paul, you know France better than me (laughs)!
Well, actually, only this place

Imagine you have the opportunity of starting the band of your dreams. Who would be part of that super band ?
I think I'ld probably have John Bonham on drums. They're all dead. That would be a band in heaven. George Harrison on guitar. I don't know who would be on bass. Hmmmmm…….May be Pino Palladino on bass, he's one of the best bass players.

If you had to spend the rest of your life on an island, which albums would you take with you ?
Hmmm…..Actually my favorite album, at the moment, is the soundtrack to the movie "O Brother Where Art Thou ?". I listen to that album all the time. I love that album. I would probably take that. I would probably take an Otis Redding album. Oh, it's difficult, maybe I'll take a "best of Otis Redding's album".

Are Mick Ralph and Boz Rurrel still members of Bad Company ?
No, after the last tour, they decided that, good as it was, they didn't tour anymore, they were happy. Mick doesn't like flying, and since Sept 11th, he really doesn't like flying. Boz likes to play his jazz in little clubs, he's fine. So they didn't want to come out on tour. But the demand was very strong for Bad Company. So I put this unit together. Jaz Lochrie is the bass player that plays with my solo band, we traveled all the world together, he's a great bass player. And Dave Colwell is the guitar guitar. It's a very hot band. It's very musically dynamic. And with the new DVD, people can hear how that sounds today.

Are you already working on the next album ?
Not yet. It's been so much work. Remember, we recorded the live album in January of this year in California and Denver, Colorado. There's been all the mixing, the editing, all the things involved in making the DVD, the artwork, the promotion and the tour itself. It's pretty much a 24 hours a day job. So, when all this clears a liitle bit, I'll start thinking of the studio album.

How do you write songs ? with the guitar, the piano ? Lyrics or melody first ?
All of the above. Sometimes, I sing a song without any instrument and then I work the chords afterwards on the guitar. I very often seat with an acoustic guitar because when I traveling, it's the easiest instrument to have, I don't need to plug it in or carry a piano, anything like that. I have this beautiful Taylor acoustic guitar right now, that I really love. But I do like to sit on the piano to compose a song when I get the chance. I sometimes write on the bass, I wrote "Rock Steady" on the bass. I write on any instrument.. I can play guitar, bass, drums and piano as much as I need to demonstrate the song to the guys. When I write a song, I hear a whole picture and I explain where are the drums are, where the guitar is, what the bass is doing.

Well, we've finished with all the questions we had prepared. Do you wanna add something ?
Well, I'm often asked how I write a song. I'm gonna show you how I wrote Joe Fabulous. Here's my Taylor guitar, it has a normal tuning, and on the low E string, there's a mechanism that drops this string to D. A guitarist knows that there are harmonics on the 12th fret (Paul plays these harmonics with the "Joe Fabulous" pattern rythym and sings the first sentences of the song). And I take that along to the guys in the band and we'll talk about where the bass is, where the drums is, and I explain the guitar solo (Paul sings the guitar solo).

Paul, thanks very much for this interview. We really appreciate. It's been a great honor to talk with you.
May 10, 2002 - Hotel Plaza Athénée - PARIS

I also would like to thank Cynthia, Paul's manager, for her kindness. And also, great thanks to Olivier and Régis, from NTS, for allowing us to realize this interview.

Philippe Archambeau
The Road To Jacksonville

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