GILBY CLARKE On His First Shows With GUNS N' ROSES: 'All I Was Thinking About Was Remembering 50 Songs'

May 9, 2021

Former GUNS N' ROSES guitarist Gilby Clarke was recently interviewed by Markus Brandstetter of You can now watch the chat in 13 parts below.

Asked what it was like joining GUNS N' ROSES three decades ago, Gilby said: "When I joined GUNS, of course I'd never played a stadium before, but I had played arenas — I had done tours doing arenas and clubs, House Of Blues-sized, all that stuff. When I joined GUNS and people say, 'How did you go from that…?' It happened so fast. From the day I went in to jam with them until when I went on stage was only two weeks. I didn't get the gig until a week in. I had one week to learn 50 songs; I had to learn the whole catalog, 'cause they don't have a setlist. So what I was thinking about was remembering the songs. I wasn't thinking about the rock star stuff. I wasn't thinking about, 'Oh my God. I've gotta stand on stage. Oh my God. This is GUNS N' ROSES,' and all that comes with it. All I was thinking about was remembering 50 songs. Every day, I sat there with a cassette player, with the headphones on, learning Izzy's [Stradlin] parts. I didn't wanna disappoint the guys. They had already done a couple of months of touring. I didn't wanna get on stage and be the one that was hitting bad notes. Because we were pretty loud; you could hear my guitar as well as you could hear Slash's guitar. I didn't wanna be the guy making mistakes. So it was really important to me to learn all those songs. That's all I cared about, was being able to play."

Regarding what it was like going on the "Use Your Illusion" tour at the height of GUNS N' ROSES' success, Gilby said: "To be honest, I didn't think about all that stuff. I wasn't thinking about the rock star stuff. I was building new relationships. I didn't know Slash well before the GUNS tour. I knew him a little bit, but I didn't know him well. We became friends during the tour. Matt [Sorum] I did know before. So I was building these relationships. And I wouldn't say that I had to fit in — I really didn't. They didn't put that pressure on me. They gave me so much freedom. They never told me what to play; they never told me what to wear; they never told me what to say. They accepted you for who you were. And of course, we all make mistakes. Sometimes because I was the new guy and most of them weren't doing interviews so much, you'd say something in the press, and Slash would go, 'Ah, man. Why'd you say that?' And I'd go, 'Well, you know… All right. Now I won't say it.' [Laughs] They like to keep their world their own — you know, close — which I caught that later on. That's what I was thinking about, was really the friendships of the band. And it's not even fitting in — I fit in already. We were all part of the same scene. It was really easy to fit in. But I didn't think about all that stuff. I really was just concentrating once again on playing the songs well. I wanted Slash and Axl [Rose] and Duff [McKagan] to be proud of what I was doing. I wanted it to go well. I wanted to do well for them, and I'm sure they wanted me to do well also."

Clarke replaced Stradlin in the GUNS lineup in 1991, during the "Use Your Illusion" tour, and stayed with the band for three years. After exiting GUNS N' ROSES, Clarke continued as a producer and solo artist, while also playing in SLASH'S SNAKEPIT, ROCK STAR SUPERNOVA, HEART and other acts.

Clarke, along with Slash, McKagan, and former GN'R drummers Steven Adler and Sorum, performed three "Appetite For Destruction" songs with Myles Kennedy at the band's Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction ceremony in April 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. Kennedy, who handles lead vocals in Slash's solo band and ALTER BRIDGE, sang "Mr. Brownstone", "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Paradise City", with "Use Your Illusion"-era member Sorum sitting behind the drum kit on "Brownstone" and the man he replaced in GN'R, Adler, pounding the skins for the other two songs.

Clarke's new solo album, "The Gospel Truth", was released in April via Golden Robot Records.

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