GILBY CLARKE's Passion For Motorcycle Building Explored In New Episode Of THNKLAB MOTORS' 'Origins'

May 18, 2024

Gilby Clarke is the focus of an upcoming Thnklab Motors episode of "Origins".

Best known as the former rhythm guitarist for GUNS N' ROSES, Gilby is more than just a rock icon. He's a masterful artist who channels his creative genius into building custom Harley Davidsons. Beyond the iconic riffs and rock anthems, Gilby is a true master craftsman in the world of custom motorcycle building. This episode, which premieres on Saturday, May 18 at 7:00 p.m. PDT / 10:00 p.m. EDT on the Thnklab Motors YouTube channel, explores his fascinating dual career, uncovering the passion and creativity that drive him both on stage and in the garage. The series producers take you behind the scenes into Clarke's workshop, where raw metal and creative vision come together to form stunning custom Harley Davidsons. Each bike is a testament to Gilby's artistic prowess, reflecting a blend of rock 'n' roll attitude and one-of-a-kind craftsmanship.

Speaking to This That And The Other Radio Show With Troy Patrick Farrell about his "Origins" episode, Gilby said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "It's a short. This is the second one they've done. They did one on my good friend [renowned celebrity photographer ] Brian Bowen Smith. And we all saw it and we're, like, 'Oh my God, Brian. That's so cool.' And so we started talking about it, and the director reached out to me and said, 'We're starting to stockpile 'em, so we'd love to do one on you.' So they came over. It took a couple of days of shooting. And it's predominantly motorcycle based. It's really not about my musical career and life; it's really more motorcycle based."

He continued: "I do a lot of building. I build motorcycles. I don't really repair 'em and stuff. I like the creative aspect of building 'em — tearing one down and then starting from fresh. So this is about that experience. It's about the whole thing of what's my mindset, why, all that, but they wrap it up pretty quickly."

Clarke rose to acclaim in the hard rock scene, starting his career in the '80s as a guitarist in the Polygram Records band CANDY. Gilby then went on to form KILL FOR THRILLS, for which he was the main songwriter, singer, and guitarist. In 1991, during the "Use Your Illusion" tour, Clarke started playing live with GUNS N' ROSES after Izzy Stradlin left the band.

GUNS N' ROSES led into the beginning of a long, fruitful solo career that has still been peppered with excellent collaborations — SLASH'S SNAKEPIT, HEART and Nancy Sinatra are just some of the names that Clarke has also played with.

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 fellow GUNS N' ROSES members Slash, Duff McKagan, Steven Adler and Matt Sorum, played 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, although Gilby himself was not inducted as part of the group. 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.

In 2021, Clarke addressed his non-participation in GUNS N' ROSES' reunion tour, which features three-fifths of the group's classic lineup — singer Axl Rose, Slash and McKagan — during an interview with "The SDR Show". He said: "They didn't ask me to join the band; they asked me to come out and do [a guest appearance] with the band. And it just happened to be the day that I was in Chicago with my daughter. Her band was playing Lollapalooza [in July 2016]. And I'm actually her roadie. I don't think anybody would know how to tune the guitar if I wasn't there. Just kidding. But, yeah, it was just bad timing. I just said, 'Look, I think it's a great idea. I'm up for it. I just can't do it today.' And they literally asked me that day. And I never heard back from them after I said that."

Gilby also confirmed that he only had a week to learn the entire GUNS catalog when he first joined the band three and a half decades ago. "That's true," he said. "They told me on a Monday, that 'You have the gig,' and the next week we were flying to Boston for our first show. And I literally had a week. And remember, this is before YouTube. I was glued to their records with the headphones on, trying to learn the catalog. And the last song I learned was a song called 'Estranged', which was a really long ballad piece. And if you listen to it, it's kind of one-dimensional guitar-wise — it really just features Slash. So I was listening to it, and I really couldn't figure out what I should do in that song. So I went to Dizzy [Reed, GUNS keyboardist]. I go, 'Hey, man, can you sit down with me, and let's work on 'Estranged'.' I go, 'I just wanna kind of figure it out.' And he goes, 'Oh, well, here's the music book.' And he handed me the music book. And I went, 'There's a music book? I just spent a week learning every note by ear when I could have just grabbed the freakin' music book…' I mean, I read charts — it would have taken me an hour. I was a little pissed off that I didn't ask. They could have offered it to me."

Clarke's latest solo album, "The Gospel Truth", was released in April 2021 via Golden Robot Records.

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