‘I Can Destroy’: Paul Gilbert Talks New Album, Gear and Great Guitar Escape
It’s a question every artist has to grapple with: If you’re not pushing yourself creatively, how can you grow?
That’s exactly what Paul Gilbert tackles—with fervor—on his new solo album, I Can Destroy, which will be released May 27.
On the album, which was produced by Kevin Shirley (whose credits include Mr. Big’s 2011 album, “What If”), Gilbert cuts a wide swath of styles and textures. There’s the full-frontal assault of “Everybody Use Your Goddamn Turn Signal,” the jazz-blues lament of “One Woman Too Many” (which also features Gilbert’s patented Makita drill-bit riffery) and the gut/heart punch of “I Am Not the One (Who Wants to Be with You).” Its playful title references the ubiquitous Number 1 hit Gilbert enjoyed as lead guitarist for Mr. Big.
I recently spoke with Gilbert about I Can Destroy, this year’s Great Guitar Escape, his current setup and more.
How would describe I Can Destroy in terms of its sound—and maybe even how it relates to some of your previous solo albums?
The album sounds like an electric brontosaurus, dropped from a 40-story building, landing on a giant sheet of aluminum foil, plugged into a 200-watt Marshall, in the key of F#! [laughs]. Seriously, there are three guitar players on the album—Tony Spinner, Freddie Nelson and myself. So we could do lots of three-part guitar harmonies. It was great to have a big band so I didn’t need to do overdubs. Tony and Freddie are also great singers, so we included lots of vocal harmonies, and whenever the bridge was too high for me, Tony would save the day.
How did you approach writing for this album?
I turn complaining into music! I’m thinking I might have invented a new style. I call it “cantankerous rock.” If you look at songs from my last few albums, you can see how I’ve been building up to this. “Get Out of My Yard” is certainly a cantankerous title. “Atmosphere on the Moon” [from Vibrato] was about being so misanthropic that I ask today’s young scientists to fabricate an atmosphere on the moon so I can escape their dreadful auto-tuned music here on Earth. “Everybody Use Your Goddamn Turn Signal” from the new album certainly sends a cantankerous message. But these are all lyrics, and guitar players usually care more about the guitar. Actually, I do too, but it’s a lot easier for me to write a meaningful guitar riff if I have a lyric to give the song some structure.
What was it like working with Kevin Shirley on this project?
It was very similar to when I worked with Kevin with Mr. Big. Only with this record, we recorded about twice as fast. We recorded my songs so quickly that I started to run out of them. That gave me the chance to do one cover—Ted Nugent’s “Great White Buffalo.” Overall, when I work with Kevin I know he’s going to steer me in the best direction to make the album sound great and rock.
I’d like to ask you about a few songs from I Can Destroy. Maybe you can tell me what inspired them, how they were written—or whatever comes to mind. Let’s start with “Everybody Use Your Goddam Turn Signal.”
I lived in Los Angeles for around 20 years. I love the place, but the driving can wear thin. I recently moved to Portland, Oregon, where I can walk and ride my bicycle everywhere. I’m hoping my misanthropic tendencies will relax a bit from being a pedestrian. Musically, I like that the riff swings. I love that the word “goddamn” is sung with big, beautiful harmonies. And I like making the turn signal sound with my guitar by picking muted high strings. The solo is a trade-off with me first, then Freddie and then Tony. The original performance had a much longer solo, but I cut it shorter for the album. Live, I’ll probably make it long again.
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Interview with Paul Gilbert by Clicking Here.