Classic interview: Rory Gallagher – “Jimmy Page makes a point of it and congratulations to him and Keith Richards, some of their best notes are the ones that are fluffed”

In 1987, Guitarist magazine’s Neville Marten went to visit Rory Gallagher as he made what would become the Defender album to discuss the studio approach of a player renowned for his live fire. And he gave that, and much more insight into his uniquely creative mind…

Is it a departure from what you’ve done before or is it basically still Rory?

“Some of my albums veer more towards rock, but on this one there’s a strong return to blues influences. There are a few rocky tracks and there’s a few unusual bits in some of the songs – there are always things that influence you, like an Irish influence or a Spanish influence – but the blues tracks are fairly much in the blues tradition.

“The whole feel of the album is good and gritty and it’s honest – and we’ve got the sound right. I wasn’t very happy with the sound on [1982’s] Jinx compared to this one.

“I was going to do an instrumental, because I’ve never done one on a record before. Not for ego sake, but I always think it’s nice for a guitar player to do an instrumental that becomes one of his numbers. I have one and I’ve been rehearsing it – it’s the 11th hour now and we’re very tempted to record it. We’re going to call it The Loop [the raised railway that runs round the centre of Chicago – Ed].”

I think a lot of people might like that…

“After all of these years I think it might be worthwhile. If not, we’ll have it on the next album because whatever way the wind blows we’re going to put about two or three out in reasonable succession, so we don’t get stuck in that rut. So, with the studio in our veins we can go in – between doing festival work in the summer – laying odd tracks down so that it doesn’t become a ‘big’ project.

“I think sometimes that’s the best way to do it – do it in bits instead of starting on 1 January and being at it for the next X weeks, which becomes months.”

Do you find that limits your creativity?

“I think it dulls your sense of decision. In the old days, because of all the gigs we were doing, you had to be in and out of the studio in order to be in Norwich by eight that night – or on the continent or somewhere. It’s a good form of discipline; it didn’t give you much time to hone the thing down.

“I think what we’ll try to do is do a day in the studio and then do a gig the following day – some kind of process like that would be good.”

It keeps it vital…

“It does yeah. I didn’t grow up working on 24-track – the first two Taste albums were eight-track and we always had tracks left over – we couldn’t believe it, either! Then we did a couple of albums on 16-track, which was great because we could compromise here and there – like if you had a tambourine or handclaps, the roadies could do it, or your friends could do it at the same time as somebody was doing acoustic in a booth.

“It keeps a kind-of a workshop feel to it; you can bring every musician in at different hours but you lose that interaction of people playing together, which is pretty evident by some of today’s music.

“I hope to go back to six- or eight-track next time, I always threaten to do that. There is a technical argument that the space of tape, per track, on 16-track is broader than 24-track – a few people have noticed that and you get a bigger sound. I think the Eagles bought a 16-track for that very reason, because it’s broader and fatter.”

I was talking to some people the other day who were trying and find what it is that made old records sound better than the modern ones.

“Well they let the bass rumble round, spillage was allowed and separation wasn’t the first commandment. I think that’s a major part of it, plus the desks and things in those days were valve desks and they were slightly distorted in the nicest possible way.

“The old compressors and echo chambers were very mechanical and they just did the one job, but did it very well.

“It’s like if you compare Dylan’s Highway 61 to his last two albums – he himself has said that he’s yearning to get that sound again but obviously somebody’s misdirecting him. It’s just a ‘combustion’ of sound. A technician would probably say, ‘Okay Rory, can’t you hear that cymbal’s peaking at such and such, can’t you hear that bass is not forward enough.

“I’m not against progress but you have to admit to your soul that some things are lacking in some of these newer recordings.”



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