Gilby Clarke plays Pawnshop Guitars, says “everything’s cool” in Guns N’ Roses



By Steve Newton

With a volatile dude like Axl Rose at the helm, it’s no wonder Guns N’ Roses breeds fast-flying rumours about everything from the singer’s supposed spousal abuse to how long he brushes his teeth.

Then of course there’s the intriguing question of who’s gonna be in his band when you wake up in the morning.

Original drummer Steven Adler was the first to go, kicked out of the band in June of ’91 for overly ambitious drug use—he managed to squeeze a lot more potential drug money out of the band when he sued it over that sacking. Later that same year rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin resigned, shortly before the group was to launch a worldwide tour in support of its Use Your Illusion releases.

Now Stradlin’s replacement, Gilby Clarke, is out touring behind his own album.

Could it be that he’s the latest casualty of GN’R’s revolving-door policy?

“Just don’t believe everything you read,” warns Clarke, calling via cellular phone from his tour bus en route to Detroit, Michigan. “Everything’s cool; nothing’s changed with GN’R. Everybody’s just kinda doin’ their own thing.”

Clarke’s own thing is Pawnshop Guitars, his debut solo recording, and he’ll feature its tunes at the Town Pump on Saturday (October 29). The last time he was in town, with his GN’R mates, he entertained several thousand folks at B.C. Place, but he claims the move from big stadiums to small clubs doesn’t faze him.

Clarke enjoys being “right in the people’s faces”, and he’ll be there along with his four-piece band, which includes former River Dogs and Little Caesar drummer Marc Danzeisen, ex–Electric Angels guitarist Ryan Roxie, and bassist Will Effertz. (All of the above were joined on Pawnshop Guitars by the various Guns N’ Roses members. That’s Slash’s lead guitar you hear quavering rowdily on the intro to Clarke’s let’s-lift-a-riff-from-Metallica single, “Cure Me…Or Kill Me…”; more easily identifiable is Rose’s bothersome background-vocal bleat on a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers”.)

One guest artist whose credit on Pawnshop Guitars may come as a bit of a surprise is former Pixies leader and current Teenager of the Year Frank Black, who handles rhythm guitar and background vocals on a barnstorming version of the Clash’s “Jail Guitar Doors”.

“Frank’s a friend from L.A.,” says Clarke, “and we always said that we would play on each other’s albums if we ever got the chance. So I called him up and he came down, and he was just the right guy for that song. He was perfect.”

While the closest Clarke has gotten to writing a Guns N’ Roses song (so far) has been suggesting the band cover Nazareth’s “Hair of the Dog” on The Spaghetti Incident—his first recording with the group—he wrote all but three of the titles on Pawnshop Guitars himself.

But you’ve gotta wonder whether that disc’s 11 tracks are enough to keep the 32-year-old rocker onstage long enough to deliver a full set.

“We do all kinds of stuff,” Clarke says, “like Beatles, Stones, and some stuff off The Spaghetti Incident. And every once in a while we’ll pull out a Guns N’ Roses tune, if the crowd seems like they really want to hear it.”

Say what? A GN’R tune without Axl’s whiny wail? This Clarke guy could be on to something.

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