Paul Rodgers's interview
Interview by Philippe Archambeau and Dominique Turgot.
Questions prepared by John Molet and Dominique Turgot.
What were your main influences while growing up ?
When I was a kid, we always used to have the radio on and I used to listene to a lot of the pop of that time. When I was 4 or 5 or something so, I was interested in music. When I got to be about 11 or 12, I started to hear Elvis Presley 'cause my sister was playing and then the Beatles came along, the Rolling Stones came along, and when I was 12 or 13, I digged a little deeper to find their influences and that's when I discovered blues. So, people like Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, BB King, Ray Charles, you know blues and soul. And Otis Redding of course. That's been my love ever since in many ways.
To me, the tribute to Muddy Waters is an excellent album. I love it.
How did you choose the guitar players for this album ?
Well, actually it evolved. I started out thinking which songs should I include, you know. Which are the best songs to include ? And I did a lot of homework. I found some amazing live tracks, live albums that he had done like "Hoochie Coochie Man", those classic they did. In the end, I decided that I would stick to what I called "the best of Muddy" 'cause I think some of these things are the best tracks, and they were really good ones, "Hoochie Coochie Man" and all this kind of things. And that's the basics from which I worked. I wanted to re-arrange it, to be a little creative with it and maintain the spirit of the blues. And each track suggested a guitar player for me, you know. And that's how we did it, really. So I did a list of all the guitar players who would be ideal for each track. We sort of laughed because we said "Well, there's no way all these people are gonna come and play on the album". But we phoned them and you know it was magic the way everyone said "Yes, I'd love to", you know Jeff Beck, David Gilmour from Pink Floyd, Brian May from Queen, and Neal Schon, and even Buddy Guy came along. So it was a magic time.
I remember hearing you on a live broadcast show jamming with Poppa Chubby at the Chesterfield Café a few years * ago. Do you remember this night ?
I don't. You know I did a lot of dates with the blues album in these bluesy feel types of places.
Do you often jam with friends ?
Yes I do, even on the new DVD, I invited Neal Schon and Slash and I said "Bring your guitar because you're gonna play". So these guys came up and they played on "Wishing Well", which again is even a unique song for Bad Company because it's really in the Free area of things. We had a lot of guests stars, they didn't play but they came backstage. Mick Jones from Foreigner came. Slash, Neal Schon.
You did a tour with Slash ?
Yes, well actually, we did a few dates , we did Woodstock together. And I played in London with him. I played in Frankfurt with him once. You know, he comes to my shows and I go and jam with him in his shows, so that's quite a nice thing.
I saw you in Paris at l'Elysée Montmartre with the Paul Rodgers Band in '93.
Oh did you ? with the solo band ? With the blues album, we played all over the world in all kinds of blues clubs, with Neal Schon. He's a great guitar player. We had a lot of fun with him. We used to soundcheck, we were supposed to do it for an half of hour long. We did it all the afternoon, just playing all these songs. And the set of the show actually got longer and longer. You know, I think it was a two or three hours set by the time. And we did all kinds of blues, all kinds of solo stuff, we did Hendrix, you know just for the joy of playing, that was wild. And that was why we eventually put a tribute album to Jimi Hendrix as well because we had so many Hendrix songs in the set. I went to the record company asking them if they would like some live tracks, some Hendrix tribute in a way, and we recorded the show live down in Miami, on July 4th that year.
Today, is there a musical style you love more than the others ?
I have very wide tastes in music. I like everything that sounds good, I don't limit myself to a particular genre of music cause I think it crosses over. The very best of jazz, the very best of soul, the very best of blues, ther's a connexion beween all those things. I watched a movie recently called "O Brother Where Art Thou ?". It's got some fantastic music in it. It's like old country. There's a song called "Man of constant sorrow" which I don't know what you would call it, if it is blues or so (Paul sings the two first sentences of this song, Waouh !!! that voice !!!). I don't even know if that's country or blues or folk or what that is, it doesn't matter, it just sounds good. And there's a lot of good stuff in that movie. I bought the soundtrack to it cause it's just great music.
How did you react while seeing new kinds of music coming, such as techno, rap… ? Do you like it ?
Hmmmm… Some of it, it's not really my cup of tea. I mean, it's a free world. People can do their own thing. I can think, I mean I'm not saying to me other I don't really like rap because it seems very violent. But I have to accept this is something brand new. You know, it's not been done before in history I guess. It's unique but this is not really something I would do myself, I don't think. I don't know. You know, may be I'm old fashioned or something but I like the songs.
Many southern rock bands say Free and Bad Co had a great influence on their music. Do you have an idea why ?
I would think possible because we took a lot of the music from the same roots that they did, from the same blues artists, you know John Lee Hooker people and that Delta thing. We took it over to England and it all incubated in England. We took it somewhere else because we were separated from their scenes. And it probably sounded unique to them. But I still have that feel. It's british in a way, but it's our version of blues or southern rock I should say.
What does southern rock represents to you ?
Well I don't know. It's a groove, isnt' it ? It's a really good groove. I like it, I like anything that moves me, you know.
We've read you've been asked to replace Ronnie Van Zant for the Tribute Tour back in '87. Is it a lengend ?
We were so drunk all the time, I can't remember (laughs). Those guys are wild guys. I love those guys. They lived a dangerous lifestyle in many ways but we were very very good friends. I don't know why they often asked me to sing with them but we always have a good feeling together, you know. Actually, Gary Rossington, when I played my solo tour, in England a couple years back, and we finished at the Royal Albert Hall, Gary flew all the way from America just to jam on a couple of songs, which is a beautiful thing.
He seems to be a very good friend of yours.
He's a great guy, a great guitar player, yeah.
He was very influenced by Paul Kossof.
Yes, indeed. We jammed many times. I've always been surprised the way he chooses his notes because they're so beautiful, you know (Paul sings some notes Gary could play).
The slow vibrato, and so
Yeah, yeah and those long notes.
Ronnie VanZant often said you and Gregg Allman were his two favorite singers. Did you ever know that ?
Well, it's nice to hear
What were your relations with Ronnie VanZant? You've done many dates with the Lynyrd Skynyrd band.
Well, yeah. We were good friends, you know. It was a long time ago now. We would see each other, we would jam,
You're fronting the Paul Rodgers Group and Bad Company, is the musical approach different in the two bands ?
With the solo band, I guess I'm more experimental. I've always tried, in the past, to keep each band, each thing that I did seperately. Free was Free, the Firm was the Firm, Bad Company was Bad Company, the blues was the blues you know. When I play my solo band, I actually mix, you know, together, all comes together and I play music from "All Right Now" to "Satisfaction Guaranteed", "Muddy Waters blues", so it's all mixed. Like "Rock and Roll Fantasy" that I played at The Cavern and I wanted to play some sort of respect to the Beatles, so I did two songs in "Rock and Roll Fantasy", with my solo band in Liverpool. And that stayed with me. Actually, I brought that to Bad Company because I thought it was a good thing to do. Even doing "All Right Now" with Bad Company, it's kind of a little bit unique because Bad Company never did that. Also "Wishing Well" on the DVD. So, the one helps the other. But I'm really focused on Bad Company this year and next year. I'll think of my solo band probably after that.
I personnaly love the song "Shooting Star", especially the lyrics.
Did you write it thinking to someone else ? Did you refer to somebody ?
Yes, a lot of people in mind. In the music business, they were a lof of casualties and it's not a war zone. They kind of missed the point. The point is the music, you know and not the parties and all that stuff that intend to go on. The purpose of being a musician is to make music and keep itself together. "Shooting Star" came to me as an idea. It's about all the people that didn't survive. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, John Bonham, Keith Moon, who else ? There 's just so many people and it's still happening to these days. So, it's about all these people.
Did you plan some dates in France ?
Well, we're touring in America on June and July. The management is working on an europoean tour right now. I know there are some dates in England and I hope wel'll come to France too. And after that, we'll go to Japan. So, I hope so.