Intervju med Brian "Robbo" Robertson!
Den gamle Lizzygitarristen har snickrat ihop sitt första soloalbum med hjälp av en hel hög svenska musiker och det låter faktiskt ganska bra.
Jag fick nyligen nöjet att ringa upp Robbo och prata om bl a allt arbete kring plattan, hans svenska musiker, hans favorit bland Lizzyplattorna, senaste versionen av Thin Lizzy, champagne med Jeff Beck och om den omdiskuterade fejkheten på "Live and dangerous".
Brian: Niclas, how are you?
I´m good! How are you?
Brian: I´m pretty cool!
How did you hook up with this bunch of Swedes and how long ago was it?
Brian: This bunch of Swedes? It sounds like a cookery program! Ian Haugland, I´ve known him for a lot of years, so he´s a good friend and over the years I´ve realized that he is a pretty amazing drummer. There´s a difference between what he plays with me and what he does with Europe. In Europe he has to be fairly straight because of the songs and the way they play, but I knew a long time ago that he´s a lot more mental than that. (laughs) It was a no brainer to get him plus he´s a real good friend. As far as the bass player´s concerned, Nalley Påhlsson, I also knew that Ian had been working a lot with him on sessions and whatever and so you´ve got a great rhythm section there and they´re both outstanding musicians and they work so well together. So there´s your rhythm section right there! Leif Sundin I´ve known for years and I´ve toured with him in several different bands, with John Norum and what not. John and I used to tour together quite a bit, so I knew his vocals inside out and he was exactly the right person for it. Liny is different! She joined the fold, so to speak, because she was in Polar studios where we recorded everything and she was in the studio next door to us. She just walked into our control room one day when we were playing stuff back and said “Do you mind if I sit down and have a listen?” and I said “No, no, sit down!”. She loved the songs and I said to her “You know what? I´ve been standing outside your control room listening to your album and I really like your stuff as well and I´d really like you to sing on this!”. She said yes and I said “Well ok, I´ll tell you what! You sing on this and I´ll play guitar on your album!”. So that´s what we did. I played guitar for her and she did the vocals for me. So there you have the whole band!
Yeah, I was wondering about Liny Wood. I didn´t know of her, but I checked out her website and saw this very tattooed girl.
Brian: Yeah, she did one on me as well. She´s got “I love Liny” on my arm here. We had dinner one night and she has this little tattoo machine and said “Do you want a tattoo?” and I said “Yeah, go on then!”. (laughs) She´s indelibly printed on my arm now. Like I said, it´s a bit of a family. Liny is very talented and she´s got a very special voice, she really does.
Her voice is great and that was actually one of the first thing I noticed when I listened to the album. Her voice suits the music perfectly.
Brian: I always had it in mind with a girl on a sort of second lead vocal, because that´s the way the songs came to me when I was arranging and producing them. It´s just really cool that she just walked in and introduced herself and she´s like my big sister now. She looks after me and she´s a good lady. I´ve actually done a video with her for her new single and I play her boyfriend, (laughs) which I don´t think her boyfriend is too happy about. (laughs)
Cool! She´s out on tour with Alannah Myles now, isn´t she?
Brian: Well, it´s two weeks away from that.
The album then, were there a lot more stuff written than what´s on the album?
Brian: Yeah! We´ve still got a plastic bag full of cassettes. We´re already actually thinking about the next album. I´ve got the bug back! We´re thinking about it as we speak. It´ll be the same line up in the band. I won´t work with anybody else.
Did you have any other titles floating around or did “Diamonds and dirt” come right away?
Brian: No, but the original title of the album was “Bollocks”! (laughs) No, I´m just kidding! “Diamonds and dirt” is such a strong title and it´s such a strong song and it´s very much now, in my personal life. I changed the lyrics around a little bit, rewrote them, but it´s very much now with me. There was nothing else on the album… I mean, “Diamonds and dirt” is such a strong title.
All these cassettes in the plastic bag, how far back do they go? Is there stuff from way back in the early 70´s up till now?
Brian: No… a lot of it is from maybe early 80´s up till late 90´s. There´s a range there on the album… I don´t know what´s left in the plastic bag. There might be some stuff from early 70´s, I don’t know. I just haven´t listened to all of them, so I don´t really know what´s there.
So you don´t have any clue if there´s any Thin Lizzy stuff laying around?
Brian, No, I doubt whether there´s any Thin Lizzy stuff there. There might be some stuff that I put forward to Lizzy at some point in time, but I very much doubt it. I think it´s probably mostly solo stuff.
All those cassettes, are they full songs or just riffs?
Brian: As I said, I haven´t really listened to what´s left, but the stuff that we´ve used, there were lyrics and stuff although I changed it around to my personal situation, because all the songs are about bleeding women being such pains in the arse, (laughs) as are men. But like I said, we haven´t listened through to everything. We have a lot of stuff recorded in Stockholm when we had our own studio which are not in the plastic bag, but we´ve got that on 24 track and that stuff we have to look at and a lot of that is riffs and acoustics and stuff. There´s quite a wealth of material, but as I said, Sören and I are setting up a little studio over here anyway, so we´ll probably do some fresh writing as well.
What was the idea behind recording “It´s only money”, “Running back” and “Blues boy”? Was it just because you wanted to re record them and give them a different sound?
Brian: Let´s take it from the top, ok! “It´s only money”, when it was originally recorded we were stuck straight in the studio for three months, which is no time what so ever. We´d only just got together and there was a lack of material. The producer, Ron Nevison, wasn´t quite on the case. I was young and it was my first album and I wasn´t piping up and saying what I should´ve been saying. I felt “What a great riff!”, but it was a bit lame. I mean, it was alright for 1974, but it´s such a strong riff that you could take it out of 1974 and make it now and that´s basically what we did. The guitar sounds better, the drums sound better! My playing is a hell of a lot better and the production is… god, 10 times better! I played it live for 10 or 15 years anyway, with John Norum and Leif Sundin. They knew the song anyway. As far as “Running back” concerned, I didn´t actually play on the original at all.
Yeah, I know!
Brian: I walked out. I had an argument with Phil over it. I wanted to record a blues and I sat in the studio at the piano and played boogie piano and he stopped it and went “No, we´re not doing that!”, so we had an argument and I ran off to the pub and Scott did it. My idea was a blues thing, because I thought it was a really good song. The lyrics were great and I thought it lent itself to the blues, but he (Phil) obviously didn´t think so. He wanted to do it pop, so we had a bit of a clash there and then when we came around to discussing what we were gonna put on the album (Diamonds and dirt) and what we were gonna rehearse, Sören and I had a small discussion about it and initially I wasn´t really up for it because I hate the fucking song. (laughs) I really hate it! I cannot listen to it! But I still think it´s a good song, so what I did was I took it and stripped it back to blues. I changed the timing of it because as you probably know, on “Jailbreak” it´s a shuffle and on my album it´s 4 on the floor straight along the line, so that kind of worked. I thought “Yeah, that´s cool!” and we did it in rehearsals and it was like “Yeah, this is fun!”. I think probably at the end of one day´s rehearsal I said to the boys “Let´s try a slow version of it!”, a bit like Little Feat, slightly out of time and rough and ready, so the boys and me started playing and we played it about four or five times in this little rehearsal studio and we had such fun with it that I thought “Well, why not put two versions of it on the album? Nobody puts two versions of one song on an album!”. First I thought it was a bit weird, but then “Yeah, let´s do that then!”. (laughs) So we did and that´s how it all came about.
What about the Jim White track?
Brain: He he he, yeah I love it! That was a bit of a weird one, yeah. One of my brainstorms. I love Jim White´s albums and I think he´s totally bizarre.
Yeah, he´s cool!
Brian: He´s way cool even though he is a Christian! (laughs) I only found that out later. It was a choice between that one and “Handcuffed to a fence in Mississippi”.
Oh man, that´s such a cool song!
Brian: Yeah, it´s a great song isn´t it? Me and Sören was throwing it back and forth and we said “Ok, we´ll go for this one, because I can make that riff a lot heavier!” and how the vocals came about was that I had no intention of doing vocals at all, but Sören and Chris Laney tricked me into this one. I had intended to get some American in to do the rap thing, because I didn´t think a Scottish rap was really on the card. But obviously I had to do a guide vocal for who ever came in because very few people are gonna be hearing about Jim White, are they? He´s totally left field, so if I got somebody in to do it, they would have to have a guide vocal so I went in and did the guide vocal myself, but they recorded it and played it back to me when I went in to the control room and I thought “Hmmm, it´s not that bad!”. It took me a few days to get used to it, because you know yourself when you hear your voice on a tape, even just speaking, you hate it. So it took me a couple of days to sort of agree with the two boys. That´s what we went with, just that one take and that was it!
Alright! How did you hook up with Chris Laney?
Brian: He was the house engineer at Polar studios and he´s now playing rhythm guitar for me as well. I gave him one of my Les Pauls and told him to plug it through a Marshall. For his band he uses like… I don´t know, some weird amps and distorting guitars, but I told him “If you´re gonna play with me you´re gonna have to have a Les Paul and you´re gonna have to put it through a Marshall!”. I brought one of my Les Pauls over from England and he´s totally in love with it! I don´t know if I´ll ever get it back. (laughs)
As I understand it, there´s no proper our planned since it´s kind of hard to get the band together?
Brian: Yeah, you´re the first guy I´ve spoken to that´s actually said that first. But yeah, because everybody´s so busy on their own projects. It´s bit of a nightmare to be honest, so really what we´re looking at is… and I´ve already been asked several times why I don´t get other musicians because there are so many good musicians in Sweden, but I´m not just prepared to go out without the “family”. We´re all so close and we are such individual musicians. Every one of them has their own strength that they brought to my album and it wouldn´t be right to go and do that and I certainly wouldn´t want to do that. I´ve already done one live gig with them and they were totally brilliant on that, so I know how they can play live and I already know how they can play in the studio and I know them as people so it would be really stupid for me to go out as Brian Robertson and a backing band. That´s so lame! I didn´t even want to call the album Brian Robertson. I was trying to think of something else, a band name so everybody´s involved, but I guess it has to be the way it is. But that doesn´t mean to say that I have to take out musicians I didn´t play with. I mean, could you imagine to get this across to other musicians? As I say, great musicians over here, but you don´t have that same feeling. We´re all way too close all of us and that comes across when you play live.
As I understand it, you were asked to take part in this latest version of Thin Lizzy?
Brian: Yeah, but I was too busy at the time. It was right in the middle of the album and I did have a phone call from Scott´s manager from America and it was put to Sören and I that they wanted to put the classic Lizzy line up together with Scott and me and Brian Downey. I really don´t spoke to Brian Downey in Dublin about it actually and as I said, I´m a bit busy with this but the door is open. Then the manager Adam called me up in Stockholm and what was put out was that it would be the classic line up and a bit later on I find out that Darren´s in on keyboards and that was immediately red flags with me, because that started me thinking “So, I´m gonna have to play Renegade and Thunder and lightning!” and there´s no way I´m gonna do that! I´m not playing on anything I didn´t play on in the first place. And now there´s six of them. (laughs) But as I say, I was too busy at the time anyway to take anything serious on and obviously the most important thing to me is my album. All you do with Lizzy is you play old tracks. There´s no new stuff there and after Lizzy I moved on. Two Wild Horses albums, Motörhead and gof knows how many different sessions with how many different people, so I actually haven´t been standing still and it kind of might have been a step back. It would´ve been nice for the nostalgia value, but not at the expense of me moving on. Having said that, Vivian´s gone back to Def Leppard at the end of this and I don´t know. I might get a call! (laughs) The door´s open if they´re prepared to discuss stuff. I´m certainly not prepared to be playing with Darren, as much as I love Darren, but he wasn´t in the band with me and I don´t see why we need keyboards to play “The boys are back in town”. It just doesn´t make any sense to me and not something I would be prepared to do.
Have you heard them live or seen any of the YouTube clips?
Brian: No, I haven´t actually. I´ve read some reviews and apparently some of the people have been saying good things and that they´re really tight. I would expect them to be tight. Downey´s in there and he´s one of the best drummers ever and Marco Mendoza and Vivian is a great player, you know. No bad comments about them but I´ve heard they´re tight, they´re good, but they just don´t have the spirit of the thing, which is inevitable when Phil isn´t there. What are you gonna do, the man´s dead!
True! Looking back on the Lizzy albums you did, is there one album that stands out more to you, that means more?
Brian: I think they´re all shit! (laughs) No, I´m kidding! My favorite studio album is actually “Johnny the fox” and I know that´s not everybody´s opinion, but I like it. The arrangements and such. The “don´t believe a word” solo is completely off the wall and apparently I did this… one guy years back said “How did you come up with the pentatonic in that solo?” and I said “Pentatonic? You mean alcoholic?”. Jesus! You don´t think about the classical training and all that when you´re putting down guitar solos! (laughs) Pentatonic scales, that´s hilarious! But then again you´ve got “Live and dangerous” and that´s always gonna be there.
I´ve read in several places that…
Brian: Oh my god, here we go!
That there was a lot of touch ups done in the studio. Any truth in that?
Brian: No, no truth what so ever! It´s bollocks! This all comes from Tony Visconti and I don´t know quite where his head´s at or what drugs he´s been taking. He claims there´s something like 75 % overdubs. What the fuck! There´s absolutely no way, right! I didn´t touch any guitars, I don´t think! That I can remember anyway. I think I did a couple of backing vocal lines and I think Phil might have overdubbed one little bit of bass, Scott a couple of little guitar bits and backing vocals and that is it. If you think about it logically and this is why I don´t understand Tony, he´s a producer for Christ sake and a very good one… knowing the volume that I play live, forget about the rest of the band ok, I have always been a very, very loud guitar player and if you recorded something in those days live, you´ve got all the mikes set up there and all the vocal mikes are open and the drum mikes are all open, how can you possibly cut that out without it going over the drum mikes and without my guitar going over the vocal mikes? You can´t do it! I mean, you cannot overdub a whole album like that! You just can´t do it! You´ll have all this ghost shit in the background and if you listen to “Live and dangerous” it´s very, very crisp. The other part of it is this and I really want Tony Visconti to explain this one to me. When we were mixing the album, there was a version of “Still in love with you” in which the solo was absolutely deadly. A lot better than the one that´s on the record. We couldn´t use that take of it. Why? Because Phil had accidently left his fazer on which was set fast, so it was just going “blub, blub, blub!”, so Tony, please explain to me “How come you overdubbed Phil´s bass when you couldn´t give us the best version of that song, because it was bleeding over the microphone?” It doesn´t make any sense what so ever! As much as I love Tony, I really don´t know where his head´s at on this one. I really don´t. I haven´t seen him in years. I haven´t seen him since I did the David Bowies sessions with him and that was weird as well. I think he was starting to get a little bit weird on that one. (laughs) No, I don´t really understand this and the fact is that it´s absolute nonsense and if you listen to Brian Downey or Scott, they´ll tell you exactly the same. Three members of the band. But you know what, I really don´t care because if we could´ve overdubbed and we had to, then I probably would´ve! If we had one good song and there was a cock up in the middle and if I could´ve gone in and done that cock up and redone it and made it sound cool, then I would´ve done it! I don´t see anything wrong with that, but the fact remains that we didn´t! End of story.
Alright! When did you pick up the guitar? How old were you?
Brian: Well, I started on piano and cello at about 8, so I was probably around 11 or 12.
Do you still play the piano?
Brian: Yeah, I do all the keyboards on the album except for a couple of tracks we´re we´ve got a boogie player.
At that age and growing up, who were your influences and did you have any guitar heroes?
Brian: Yeah, Peter Green from Fleetwood Mac! He was my main influence to be honest. I´ve had a few more since, like Jeff Beck. I just saw him in Stockholm. We hadn´t met in about 25 years. I met him in the rehearsal studios when I was writing the Motörhead album and we had a few good night together. But it as real cool. We went backstage and had a big hug and a couple of bottles of champagne (laughs) and then we ended up singing and he was playing guitar in the dressing room and Narada Michael Walden, his drummer, we ended up doing this sort of Motown thing. It was really weird actually, but really cool to see him again.
One last thing. I read that for your first gig with Motörhead, you came in with an orange jump suit, is that true?
Brian: No, it wasn´t an orange jump suit! What the fuck! I don´t know what´s going on with this Motörhead shit. They always get it wrong! I used to go on stage… and this has nothing to do with it… I didn´t audition for the band! I flew out and joined them in Canada or I joined them in New York and the first gig was in Canada, but I had this sort of orange pair of combat trousers and I had just them on and nothing on top. (laughs) It was too hot! Listen, if you stand under that Bomber and it´s coming down with the lights, you are fried! This is why I was wearing the loose combat trousers and no top. It just seemed a lot easier.
When was the last time you saw Lemmy? Have you seen him recently?
Brian: No, I haven´t seen him in ages!
Have you seen the movie?
Brian: No, I haven´t seen that either. I kind of keep in touch a little bit with Philty. He´s so cool and I love him to death! I love Lemmy! There´s no animosity between any of us, you know. We did the album and we did the touring and one year was enough for me. (laughs) That was harder than four years with Thin Lizzy. Those boys won´t stop, you know what I mean. But I enjoyed it, I´ve gotta say.
Before Gary Moore passed away, had you seen him lately?
Brian: No, we did that Dublin gig with him which is on dvd. That was the last time I saw him. I don´t know what year that was?
I think it was 2006.
Brian: Five years ago. The thing with Gary was that he was a bit of a loner and I´ve still got three numbers for him in my goddamn phone. He rarely called us as a mate. He called you up when he wanted you to do something and I guess he didn´t have an awful lot of friends. He kept himself fairly insular. He could´ve called me and Sören up any time if he was feeling down or whatever and we would always talk to him.
Since you´re not gonna tour, what´s the plan now? Are you just gonna keep writing for the next album?
Brian: Yeah, we´ll get whatever gigs we can and we haven´t set the studio up yet, so the equipment is just sitting there and we need to get it all wired up and what not, so I guess we´re gonna start looking at it and obviously we´ll go through what´s left of the tapes and the other stuff that we did in our own studio, have a plan of action and go for the next album.
Is that one gonna be on SPV as well?
Brian: Well, we´ve only done one album for them. It depends on how this album does. I don´t know. It seems to be doing alright. We might go the same route as we did before and get it done down at Polar and the give it to SPV. Obviously they´re gonna be the first people that we contact about another album, but it all depends on how this one goes, but Sören and I ain´t gonna stop anyway!
Cool! It´s been a pleasure talking to you Brian! Congrats on the album and I really love the title track!
Brian: Oh, that´s really kind of you! Thank you!