ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON FEB. 13, 2011
By Steve Newton
It was exactly one week ago today that the awful news started to get around: Irish guitar legend Gary Moore had been found dead in a Spanish hotel room. A post-mortem the next day revealed that the 58-year-old rocker had passed away in his sleep, due to a suspected heart attack, just hours after checking into a resort to begin a vacation.
Fans of the on-and-off Thin Lizzy member and highly regarded solo artist were shocked and saddened, of course, but over the last seven days I’m sure more than a few have pulled out their vinyl copies of Thin Lizzy’s Black Rose: A Rock Legend—or maybe their CDs of Still Got the Blues—and reveled in the amazing fretwork that was his stock-in-trade.
I for one reminisced fondly about seeing Moore on stage at the Pacific Coliseum with Thin Lizzy in the late ’70s, and then again at the same venue as opening act for Rush back in ’84. Then I went searching for the interview I did with him in advance of that show, and found it on a 60-minute Agfa-Gevaert cassette I’d marked “Gary Moore in Reno, May 11, 1984”. Those Germans must make high-quality tapes, because Moore’s voice still comes through loud and clear.
Usually I can find things to do on weekends that are slightly more enjoyable than transcribing 27-year-old tapes, but this one’s for the hardcore Moore/Lizzy fans, the ones who know deep down that he deserves as much respect as any Clapton, Beck, or Page. Hopefully they’ll glean something from our conversation, which I now offer in its full and unexpurgated form, from hello to bye bye.
That’s him answering the phone in his hotel room in Reno, where he was touring with Rush, promoting his latest album Victims of the Future. Remember the ballad “Empty Rooms”?
Despite what he believed at the time, Moore would actually accompany Rush up to Vancouver five shows later. I remember that concert well, as any major Moore freak would.
How are you doing? It’s Steve Newton calling from Vancouver.
Hey Steve, how are you?
Pretty good. Whereabouts are you?
We’re in Reno, we just got here from Vegas, we were in Vegas last night. We played all the gambling joints this week [chuckles].
Who are you touring with right now?
Will you be playing Vancouver here with them?
Nah, I guess not because there’s something about where you’ve got to have a Canadian band to do the Canadian dates. Some tax law or something.
Oh yeah? That’s the shits, man; I was looking forward to that.
Yeah, we thought we were gonna be doin’ it, but I guess we can’t do it. But maybe after we finish the dates with them we’ll come up and do some stuff on our own in Canada. We would like to.
You’re originally from Belfast.
That’s right, yeah.
Do you still visit there much?
No, I haven’t been back there for a few years, but I think we might be going to do a show there this year sometime.
Would you ever write a song about the religious strife there?
Uh, not particularly. I mean, you know, it’s somethin’ that I don’t particularly feel that close to anymore because I haven’t lived there for so long. I’m aware of what’s going on, but it’s something that didn’t grow up around me; I’d already moved from Belfast when it all started you know.
I see on the new album you’ve got a story on the Korean airline disaster, “Murder in the Skies”. [Newt note: on Sept. 1, 1983, a Korean passenger jet was shot down by Soviet interceptors just west of Sakhalin Island, Soviet Union.]
That’s right. Well that was because it was something that I related to at the time; it was something that I felt strongly about when it happened. And you know I mean if I went to Belfast maybe then I’d be moved to write a song about Belfast, but till I went there I wouldn’t really know. [Newt note: Moore would indeed revisit Belfast and write about “the troubles” there; it was a major theme of his 1987 album Wild Frontier, which was dedicated to Thin Lizzy frontman Phil Lynott, who’d died the year before.]
You did some work with Greg Lake [from Emerson, Lake & Palmer] recently.
Yeah, I did a couple of albums with him over the last couple of years. I did two albums and a short tour of the States with him.
What’s he like to work with?
He’s pretty…he likes to take his time about making records, and he’s kind of a perfectionist, you know. So he’s quite demanding.
You toured with Def Leppard last year.
Yeah, we toured with Def Leppard for about two months last summer. Krokus was on the bill. [Newt note: Krokus was a Swiss hard-rock/metal band with AC/DC leanings best known for the 1982 track “Long Stick Goes Boom”. I’m not kidding.]
What do you think made Def Leppard, after just three albums, such a commercial success, when bands like Thin Lizzy, after closer to 15 years, get passed by?
I just think they made the right record, really, you know. Simple as that, you know, at the right time. I mean there’s a lot of that involved with it. I think they’d been building a pretty steady following for their other records, whereas a lot of other bands haven’t managed to build up such a following. And I think their producer Mutt Lange played a very big part in the whole thing. [Newt note: producer Lange helmed the chartbusting 1983 album in question, Pyromania.]
So Lizzy finally broke up?
Yeah, they broke up last year.
And you played on that farewell concert.
Yeah, Hammersmith, that’s right.
You were in and out of Thin Lizzy.
Yeah, three times.
Why didn’t you stick with them?
Well part of the reason was that, well, the first time I joined them I was asked to join to stand in for [original guitarist] Eric [Bell] because he had sort of left in the middle of the tour and it was a real kind of short-notice thing, and I stayed with them for about six months. And the second time was to stand in for Brian Robertson; so it wasn’t a permanent situation anyway.
I mean the second time I joined I did the Queen tour in ’77, and they wanted me to stay and everything after that, and the thing was I was still with Colosseum II at that time, and we just made a record, and I didn’t want to just walk out of the situation. So I went back to Colosseum II for a year to finish promoting the record, and then I went back to Lizzy after that as a full-time member.
And you did the Black Rose album.
I really like that one a lot. I like all the Lizzy albums though. They’re one of my favourite bands. Do you know what Scott Gorham’s doing these days?
Somebody told me he’s in L.A. doing something. I’d heard he was working with a couple of guys from Supertramp a few months ago, but I don’t know if it’s true or not.
I remember about seven years ago when you were taking Brian Robertson’s place and you were playing with Styx in Vancouver here. I met Scott and he took me backstage; that was a real big highlight of my life.
I remember those shows, yeah.
I see you’ve got [Deep Purple drummer] Ian Paice in your current band.
Well Ian’s not on this leg of the tour because his wife’s having a baby, so we’re using Bobby Chouinard from Billy Squier’s band.
Victims of the Future debuted on the U.K. charts at number 12.
Oh really? Oh yeah, of course, yeah it did. I forgot. Yeah it went straight in at 12, which was good because the last album only got to 30 then went straight back down again. This one’s done a lot better for us.
So you’re pretty popular over there in Britain then.
Yeah, well this one’s done really well for us in general. I mean outside of the States and Canada—obviously we don’t know what’s gonna happen over here—but it’s been a top 20 album in five countries now.
What do you think makes metal so big over there?
Uh, it’s always been big there, you know. I think what makes it popular everywhere really is the fact that when you go to a metal gig it’s an exciting event for a lot of people. Like a lot of the newer bands, like the more poppy kinda bands, although they make really good records and they produce them really great and everything, they don’t really deliver onstage. And I think that’s where like the heavier bands kinda score. The proof is there in the ticket sales, because it’s the rock bands that can still fill the big stadiums and stuff.
How did you come to record the old Yardbirds hit, “Shapes of Things”, on the new album?
I always loved the Yardbirds when I was a kid, you know; I was always into Jeff Beck and everything. So apart from the fact that I liked the song and the guitar aspect of it, the lyrical thing appealed to me as well because it fitted in with the theme of the record, bein’ about warfare and all that kinda thing. It was written 16 years ago, but it’s still relevant today.
Noddy Holder [from Slade] sang on that tune.
Yeah, that’s right, he sang backups on it, because Noddy’s a bit of an expert at that kind of chanting vocal thing because Slade have used that effect a lot. And we kinda knew Noddy through a few mutual acquaintances, so he came in to help out, you know.
What was the last record you listened to?
The last record I listened to? Boy…uh…
Long time ago?
…no, I mean I’m always listening to things, that’s why it’s such a tough question. I mean I have records that I like to take on the road with me, like…you know Hughes/Thrall? That album they did last year, I like that a lot. And I like some black things like Chaka Khan, you know, I like the album she made last year which was just called Chaka Khan. It’s one of my favourite records.
Yeah, that live one, Stompin’ At the Savoy…
Yeah, I haven’t got that yet. I want to get that.
…that’s really good; she’s great. I was talkin’ to this guy I met in a club last night, he plays in a heavy-metal band, and he’s a real fan of yours—and he asked me to ask you what drives you.
What drives me?
[Laughs]. I do. I mean I just, you know, nothing in particular, just my inspiration and my own ambitions drive me. Nothing external.
I was reading an old Guitar Player issue from 1980 with B.B. King on the cover and it says that you bought a guitar from Peter Green.
Yeah, that’s right, after he left Fleetwood Mac and he went through a very strange period—you know, he was getting rid of all his kinda material possessions, there was this kind of thing that he went through. And the guitar that he had always used, you know, was this ’59 Les Paul. He used it with John Mayall and it goes way back. And I’d seen him play it when I was 14, and I thought, “Oh, if I could ever have a guitar like that.” And he said, “Do you want to want to borrow that guitar of mine for a few days?” And I said “Oh yeah, please!,” ya know.
So I went down and I picked it up and then a couple of days later he called me up and he says “You can have it if you want, if you want to buy it and stuff.” And he sold it to me for like next to nothing. It wasn’t a financial transaction. It was more like I sold one of my guitars and then I gave him what I got for that. He wanted it to be like swapping guitars almost. [Newt note: Moore eventually sold Green’s famous “Greeny” guitar for a rumoured half-a-million dollars in 2006.]
Do you play it live?
Yeah, sometimes. I mean I always take it everywhere with me. It’s been my kind of main guitar for about the last ten years.
He’s got a new album out, I just got it the other day, called Kolors. It’s great.
Is that right? It’s such a shame that he’s not a lot more prolific, and can get back out and establish himself. Because it was a real loss to guitar playing not to have him around for so long.
Yeah, I know. I was trying to set up an interview with him, but I guess he doesn’t like to talk to the press much.
No, he’s a bit out there.
So where are you playing next?
Uh, we’re playing here tonight in Reno, then we play in Salt Lake, and then we go to Portland and Seattle. And then Rush go on up to Vancouver and we go back to L.A. for five days to do some recording.
Oh yeah–geez, I sure wish you guys were coming up.
Yeah, we thought we were you know. I mean, there you go.
Well some time you gotta make it up to Vancouver.
Oh yeah. I’d like to. I’ve played there with Lizzy and stuff.
Well best of luck on the tour there Gary, and hope to see ya some time in Vancouver.
Take it easy.
To hear the audio of my 1984 interview with Gary Moore subscribe to my Patreon page, where you can eavesdrop on over 350 of my uncut, one-on-one conversations with:
Dave Martone, 2020
Ian Gillan of Deep Purple, 2006
Joss Stone, 2012
Glenn Tipton of Judas Priest, 2005
Jack Blades of Night Ranger, 1984
Vivian Campbell of Def Leppard, 1992
Colin James, 1995
Kim Simmonds of Savoy Brown, 1998
Tom Cochrane of Red Rider, 1983
Ed Roland of Collective Soul, 1995
Taj Mahal, 2001
Tom Wilson of Junkhouse, 1995
Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, 2003
David Lindley, 2002
Marty Friedman of Megadeth, 1991
John Hiatt, 2010
Nancy Wilson of Heart, 2006
Jeff Golub, 1989
Moe Berg of the Pursuit of Happiness, 1990
Todd Rundgren, 2006
Chad Kroeger of Nickelback, 2001
Steve Earle, 1987
Gabby Gaborno of the Cadillac Tramps, 1991
Terry Bozzio, 2003
Roger Glover, 1985
Matthew Sweet, 1995
Jim McCarty of the Yardbirds, 2003
Luther Dickinson of North Mississippi Allstars, 2001
John Rzeznik of the Goo Goo Dolls, 1995
Steve Hackett from Genesis, 1993
Grace Potter, 2008
Buddy Guy, 1993
Steve Lynch of Autograph, 1985
Don Wilson of the Ventures, 1997
Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, 1998
Trevor Rabin of Yes, 1984
Albert Lee, 1986
Yngwie Malmsteen, 1985
Robert Cray, 1996
Tony Carey, 1984
Ian Hunter, 1988
Kate Bush, 1985
David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, 1984
Jeff Healey, 1988
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1996
Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi, 1993
Colin Linden, 1993
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, 1995
Justin Hayward of the Moody Blues, 1986
Elliot Easton from the Cars, 1996
Wayne Kramer from the MC5, 2004
Bob Rock, 1992
Nick Gilder, 1985
Klaus Meine of Scorpions, 1988
Jason Bonham, 1989
Tom Johnston of the Doobie Brothers, 1991
Joey Spampinato of NRBQ, 1985
Patterson Hood of the Drive-By Truckers, 2003
Andy Powell of Wishbone Ash, 2003
Steve Kilbey of the Church, 1990
Edgar Winter, 2005
Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde, 1990
Randy Hansen, 2001
Dan McCafferty of Nazareth, 1984
Davy Knowles of Back Door Slam, 2007
Jimmy Barnes from Cold Chisel, 1986
Steve Stevens of Atomic Playboys, 1989
Billy Idol, 1984
Stuart Adamson of Big Country, 1993
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull, 1992
Warren Haynes of Gov’t Mule, 1998
John Bell of Widespread Panic, 1992
Robben Ford, 1993
Barry Hay of Golden Earring, 1984
Jason Isbell, 2007
Joey Belladonna of Anthrax, 1991
Joe Satriani, 1990
Vernon Reid of Living Colour, 1988
Brad Delp of Boston, 1988
Zakk Wylde of Pride & Glory, 1994
John Sykes of Blue Murder, 1989
Alice Cooper, 1986
Lars Ulrich of Metallica, 1985
John Doe, 1990
Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, 1992
Myles Goodwyn of April Wine, 2001
John Mellencamp, 1999
Mike Campbell of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, 1999
Kenny Aronoff, 1999
Doyle Bramhall II, 2001
Jon Bon Jovi, 1986
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1992
Randy Bachman, 2001
Little Steven, 1987
Stevie Salas, 1990
J.J. Cale, 2009
Joe Bonamassa, 2011
Tommy Emmanuel, 1994
Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip, 1997
John Petrucci of Dream Theater, 2010
Eric Johnson, 2001
Stu Hamm, 1991
Gene Simmons of Kiss, 1992
Ace Frehley from Kiss, 2008
David Lee Roth, 1994
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
John Mayall of the Bluesbreakers, 1988
Steve Vai, 1990
Tony Iommi of Heaven and Hell, 2007
Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, 1996
Geoff Tate of Queensryche, 1991
James Hetfield of Metallica, 1986
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1990
Rick Richards of the Georgia Satellites, 1988
Andy McCoy and Sam Yaffa of Hanoi Rocks, 1984
Steve Morse, 1991
Slash of Guns N’ Roses, 1994
Brian May from Queen, 1993
Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers, 1991
Jake E. Lee of Badlands, 1992
Rickey Medlocke of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1997
John Fogerty, 1997
Joe Perry of Aerosmith, 1987
Rick Derringer, 1999
Robin Trower, 1990
Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, 1994
Mick Ronson, 1988
Geddy Lee of Rush, 2002
Buck Dharma of Blue Oyster Cult, 1997
Michael Schenker, 1992
Vince Neil of Motley Crue, 1991
Vinnie Paul of Pantera, 1992
Joan Jett, 1992
Steve Harris of Iron Maiden, 1988
Sebastian Bach of Skid Row, 1989
Rob Halford of Judas Priest, 1984
Bill Henderson of Chilliwack, 1999
Paul Rodgers, 1997
R.L. Burnside, 1999
Guthrie Govan of the Aristocrats, 2015
Mick Mars of Mötley Crüe, 1985
Carlos Santana, 2011
Walter Trout, 2003
Rudy Sarzo of Quiet Riot, 1983
Rob Hirst of Midnight Oil, 2001
Tommy Aldridge, 2001
Donald “Duck” Dunn, 1985
Mark Farner of Grand Funk, 1991
Chris Robinson of Black Crowes, 1990
Jennifer Batten, 2002
Mike Fraser, 2014
Leo Kottke, 2002
Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead, 2002
David Gogo, 1991
Booker T. Jones, 2016
Link Wray, 1997
James Reyne from Australian Crawl, 1988
Mike Rutherford of Genesis, 1983
Buddy Guy, 1991
Country Dick Montana of the Beat Farmers, 1990
Mike Cooley of the Drive-By Truckers, 2016
Gary Rossington of Lynyrd Skynyrd, 1986
Lindsay Mitchell of Prism, 1988
Buddy Miles, 2001
Eddie Money, 1988
Tom Hamilton of Aerosmith, 1983
Gaye Delorme, 1990
Dave Murray of Iron Maiden, 1984
Graham Bonnet of Alcatrazz, 1984
Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac, 2016
Doc Neeson of Angel City, 1985
Rik Emmett of Triumph, 1985
Sonny Landreth, 2016
Tosin Abasi of Animals as Leaders, 2016
Jeff Beck, 2001
Albert King, 1990
Johnny Ramone of the Ramones, 1992
Peter Frampton, 1987
Otis Rush, 1997
Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, 1989
Leslie West of Mountain, 2002
Steve Howe of Yes, 2017
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden, 1983
Uli Jon Roth, 2016
Poison Ivy of the Cramps, 1990
Stevie Ray Vaughan, 1985
Greg Lake of ELP, 1992
Robert Plant, 1993
Malcolm Young and Brian Johnson of AC/DC, 1983
Warren Zevon, 1992
Tal Wilkenfeld, 2016
Steve Clark of Def Leppard, 1988
Ronnie Montrose, 1994
Danny Gatton, 1993
Alex Lifeson of Rush, 1992
Ann Wilson of Heart, 1985
J.J. Cale, 1990
Yngwie Malmsteen, 2014
Chris Cornell, 2008
Long John Baldry, 1985
Allan Holdsworth, 1983
Kim Mitchell, 1984
Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers, 1994
Derek Trucks, 1998
Susan Tedeschi, 1998
Joe Satriani, 2018
B.B. King, 1984
Albert Collins, 1985
Ronnie James Dio, 1985
Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, 1984
Dick Dale, 2000
Greg Allman, 1998
Dickey Betts, 2001
….with hundreds more to come