(Originally published in All Out Guitar on July 17, 2007)
“… whenever I was in the dressing room on my own, I’d start playing blues to myself. One night, Bob Aisley, the bass player, came in and said, “You know, Gary, you should make a blues album next. It might be the biggest thing you ever did.” I laughed, you know. He laughed, too. But I did, and he was right, and it was.” Gary Moore, speaking of a moment leading up to the making of his “Still Got The Blues” album, released in 1990.
Gary Moore is first and foremost a blues guitarist. In fact, his newly released CD, “Close As You Get”, is proof of that once again. Fans of his harder playing like to think otherwise. But truth is, he was very much a young blues rocker when he was in the Dublin based Skid Row, a blues-rock outfit that often played support to the early Peter Green fronted Fleetwood Mac. He also played the blues while opening for his other idol in the small clubs of Belfast back in his early days. Together, he and Rory Gallagher would swap guitars, primarily because neither were able to afford the luxury of new strings. He grew up listening to Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor, and Peter Green in the sixties, and watched and listened as the three guitar icons replaced each other in the legendary Bluesbreakers, the British blues band fronted by the multitalented John Mayall. It’s true, though, that his affiliation with Irish rockers Thin Lizzy, his own Gary Moore Band, and the fusion based Colosseum II brought him initial success as a budding young rocker and an inventive player. That said, it was his solo work that attracted the most attention before he started taking the blues seriously, and he was very much a hard rock/metal guitarist at that point in time.
Though Gary's debut solo release, 1973’s “Grinding Stone”, didn’t leave much of a mark, he released “Back On The Streets” five years later to wide acclaim. It contained the benchmark song “Parisienne Walkways”. The passionate Phil Lynott vocal combined with Gary's soaring guitar melody proved to be one of the many defining points in the career of both performers. This collaboration led Gary to team up once again with Lynott and Thin Lizzy to make the album perceived by many to be their best. “Black Rose" (also known as “Roisin Dubh, A Rock Legend”), the closing song on the album of the same name, contained another passionate Lynott vocal, as well as an incredibly diverse and stylish lead guitar arrangement by Gary, one with haunting Celtic influence and a fast paced, ever-changing melody. His third release, “G-Force”, was with a band of the same name he put together merely to support a Van Halen tour. Though the band parted ways just as quickly as it had gotten together, “G-Force” is perceived by many to be an under-rated album to this day.
Many releases followed, as Gary Moore had become a known and respected name in the rock world. Though success was sporadic and up and down, albums like 1982’s “Corridors of Power”, 1983’s “Victims of the Future”, 1985’s “Run For Cover”, and others, including a few respectable live albums, all helped render him deserved recognition, not only as a brilliant guitar player but as a decent vocalist as well. His hard rock and metal playing style, combined with the amazing knack to conjure an imaginative Celtic vibe, became known as the signature Gary Moore guitar sound. Collaborations and cameo appearances happened regularly throughout the following years, with Greg Lake, Cozy Powell, George Harrison and the Traveling Willburys, and others.
Nonetheless, the primary defining moment in the career of Gary Moore occurred with the release of “Still Got The Blues” in 1990. Having enough of his rock and metal playing, he decided to revisit the music he loved since he was young. Not knowing if it was a good idea, yet deciding to make a go of it anyway, “Still Got the Blues” turned out to be the most successful album of his career. It was lush with good music. With a little help from guests George Harrison, Albert Collins, and Albert King, Gary’s original compositions sat nicely between the covers, a formula that works more than adequately for him to this day. The Deadric Malone penned “As the Years Go Passing By”, as well as his own “Moving On”, made fans as well as skeptics listen seriously to his exceptional blues-rock guitar playing style, his ample vocal ability as well. Though it was no secret even then what a Peter Green devotee he was (and still is), his cover of Green’s “Stop Messing Around” has emerged as one of the song’s best covers, and is seen by many as akin to Green’s own versions of the same.
Gary has released numerous blues albums since the aforementioned gem, and although he still feels the need to pacify some fans with sporadic jaunts into his rock past, he has emerged as one of the most prominent blues-rock performers on the scene today. And as good as that first one was, he appears to be getting even better. Last years “Old New Ballads Blues” was a gem in itself, and although his formula of exceptional originals within (just a few) blues covers was still prevalent, originals like “Gonna Rain Today” and “No Reason to Cry” are looked at as potential classics. His ability to blend his own style with the styles of those who inspired him, such as Peter Green and Roy Buchanan, as well as traditional bluesmen like B.B. and Albert King, is truly an inspiration in and of itself.This leads up to the 2007 release, “Close As You Get”. Comparable to “Old New Ballads Blues”, as it can almost be regarded as “Part II”, it’s even more blues expressive. Again, the Moore originals sit nicely alongside the blues covers. This time, however, the gritty, soulful blues rockers often enter a traditional blues ambiance, or, “as close as you get”. His slow blues tracks (about five in all) get about as diverse, melancholy, and deep as slow blues can get. He’s reminiscent of Roy Buchanan in places, and sometimes flirts with a Peter Green sound that’s haunting and exhilarating. Gary has learned to ‘leave space’, as he is known to say, and his personified notes soar off in sustained sonic expression. Diverse enough to please just about everyone who appreciates the blues, his cover of Son House’s “Sundown” might even appease the blues purists. Sonny Boy Williamson’s “Checkin’ Up On My Baby” is heavy on traditional vocals, blues harp, and a Zeppelin-like riff ambiance. His own “I Had A Dream” could possibly contain his best solo work to date. In fact, “Close As You Get” may just be his best album to date. Only time will tell. But no matter how one might see it, Gary Moore is on a roll, and the blues is where he’s at.
Below is my conversation with Gary Moore, conducted on May 1st, 2007, shortly before the release of “Close As You Get”.
Brian D. Holland) Gary, your new CD, “Close As You Get”, is very nice, and very slow bluesy.
Gary Moore) Well, some of it’s slow, some fast. I try and do a bit of both, because, you know, the blues is the blues. You can’t do it all one way or the other. I always try to create a dynamic. I do like to play the slower songs because it gives the guitar more room for expression.
BH) A few songs standout for me. One is “Checkin’ Up On My Baby”, the Sonny Boy Williamson song. Very nice. The vocal and the music really get into the vibe, and the guitar solo is excellent.
GM) I first heard it when I was getting into the British blues as a teenager in Belfast. John Mayall did an album called “Crusade”, with Mick Taylor on it. That’s where I first heard it obviously. Afterwards I heard the original version. I wanted to get a harp player on it because of the Sonny Boy Williamson connection and everything. I got this guy named Mark Feltham, who used to play in the Rory Gallagher band with Jerry McAvoy and those guys. He’s in a band called Nine Below Zero. He’s pretty much the best harp player in England, so I got him to come in and play on a couple of tracks.
BH) I love the one that follows that, “I Had A Dream”. It’s great the way you place these original Gary Moore songs right in between the old blues covers. They fit like a glove.
GM) Yeah, hopefully. [Laughing]
BH) Well, it has worked for you in the past, and I suspect it will again. “I Had A Dream” is an amazing slow blues ballad. You utilized an incredibly clean sustained tone on that.
GM) That’s a Telecaster on that.
BH) Oh, it is the Telecaster.
GM) I used a Telecaster on three songs actually. On the opening track, “If The Devil Made Whisky”, with the bottleneck. It’s in open E tuning dropped down to D. “Thirty Days”, the old Chuck Berry song, is a Telecaster as well. So, there’s three Telecaster tracks on this, which is quite unusual for me. I used to use a Strat more and stuff, but I started using this old Telecaster again. I haven’t really used it since the “Still Got The Blues” album. I used it only on one track on that, a track called “Moving On”, which is a bottleneck track as well. It’s a great old guitar, a real old battleaxe. You know, one of those you can throw down the street, pick it up, and it’s still in tune.
BH) Right! [Laughing] Now, straying back to “Trouble At Home”.
GM) Yeah, the second track. It’s a slow D minor blues.
BH) Is that a Fender amp on that?
GM) Yeah! How’d you know that?
BH) It has that nice spring reverb sound.
GM) Yeah. Actually, it’s one of those little Fender Vibroverb reissues they made in the late eighties and early nineties, the little brown one with the two ten inch speakers. It’s a reissue but it’s like seventeen years old now. [Laughing] It’s like a vintage amp that was a reissue at the time. I bought two at the same time. It’s a great little amp. It’s 40 watts with volume, bass, treble, and reverb. That’s all you need. You just whack up the reverb and whack up the volume to where it’s just on the edge of breaking up. That’s a Les Paul on there, my ’59 Les Paul, on both pickups.
BH) Is that the Peter Green guitar?
GM) No. It’s my other one, from “Still Got The Blues”. When I put both pickups on, it almost has kind of a Fender-y sound. It’s got a nice kind of middle sound.
BH) Yes, it does.
GM) Some people might think it isn’t a Gibson at all, especially thru that amp. That’s a great recording amp (the ’62 Vibroverb Reissue). I’ve never gotten a bad sound out of it when recording. It’s very simple, very easy. Just put one mic on it and you’ve got it.
BH) Another one I like a lot is “Evenin’”
GM) Yeah. That’s a beautiful song. What happened was, we were gonna do a version of “I Put A Spell On You”, the old Nina Simone song. We did a couple of takes, and I said, “What the fuck are we doing this for? Everyone’s done this.” Brian Downey, the drummer in the band, known from Thin Lizzy obviously, he said “Look. I’ll show you where that song came from.” We got on the internet and found the Jimmy Witherspoon version of “Evenin’” . Brian used to do it in a band called Sugar Shack, back when I was only sixteen, in Dublin. I remembered the song as soon as I heard it and I really wanted to do it. It’s such a beautiful song, and quite obscure, so not many people know it. It was much better to do something like that, and much more interesting. We were able to put our own stamp on it, because the Jimmy Witherspoon one has a flute, and T Bone Walker is on it playing guitar I think. It’s a bit jazzier in a way. This one is a bit spookier and quite melancholy. The lyrics are quite down, someone feeling sorry for himself, you know, very fated.
BH) I noticed the chordal arrangement in places, especially where you use that minor 7th or whatever . . .
GM) A minor, then you drop to the G and add a B on top of it.
BH) It has a real Peter Green sound to it.
GM) Well, I think that’s the sound of the reverb and everything. It’s a different guitar. It’s a 335 on that track, thru that little Vibroverb again.
BH) The closing song, too, “Sundown”, is very nice. You do a great job bringing the Son House atmosphere into it.
GM) Do you know that song?
BH) To be honest, I’m not familiar with it.
GM) I found that because I was doing a radio show for a little digital station in London, called Planet Rock, which is like a classic rock station. They like to have guests do a series now and again. They asked me to do a blues series, so I did a two hour program every week for six weeks. Of course, I had to do a lot of research in order to get the right tracks and everything. It’s about thirty songs per week, which was 180 songs, so I had to go further and further back each week. I started listening to all of the old acoustic blues again and that was one of the things I came across. Of course, then I got the Son House album, and I started getting into him again. I just fell in love with that song. It took me a while to get it because I’ve never done an acoustic blues in my life on an album, you know. It was quite a challenge. I ended up doing it just sitting on a couch at the back of the control room, with a mic for the old Ozark guitar. It’s a cheap resonator. It has a skinny body, so it’s really nice to play. I just put a mic on that and a mic on the vocal. I tried it about four or five times out in the live room and it wasn’t right, so we all went down to the pub one night and had a few drinks, only out of respect for Son House, of course. [Both laughing] That’s probably how he used to do it. I got myself in the right frame of mind and we did it in one take. It’s got a lot of verses, and you can’t fix it, you’ve got to get it right. [Laughing] It’s about seven verses, you know. I was happy, though. It came out well, so it gives you a bit of confidence in that direction.
The “Evenin’” thing was very different for me as well, because I had to learn a different way of singing, behind the beat. It was like a jazz singer almost. So, there were quite a few little things on this record where I had to learn new skills, as it were, and go into new areas, which is always good.
BH) Will you be touring the States?
GM) Well, we don’t get offered much in the States. We usually end up just touring Europe most of the time. If the right thing came up, I’d love to play in the States. I haven’t played there in so long. I do miss it, to be really honest.
BH) I know, for sure, that there are hordes of Gary Moore fans here waiting for you to do that.
GM) Every time I’ve been there I’ve always really enjoyed it. American audiences really bring it out of you, I think. I used to always say, at the end of an American tour, that I really feel like a musician again. You know what I mean?
GM) American people are so encouraging. When they say you’re giving them 100 percent, they’ll bring another fifty out of you. They really pull it out of you, which is a great feeling. There’s a lot of intensity there.
BH) What has been your formula for sustaining success as a blues guitarist?
GM) The thing about playing the blues is that there’s nothing like experience. That’s my attitude. You tend to get better at it the more you learn it. The more you take away is a big part of it, too. On the “Still Got The Blues” album, I did “Pretty Woman” with Albert King. When he was leaving the studio, he turned to me and said, “You know what? Play every other lick.” It was the best thing anyone had ever said to me, like, don’t play every lick, play every other lick. It’s the simplest thing in the world, and when you think about it, it’s absolutely right. I think a lot of guitar players, in every genre, are afraid to leave space. I think this is the first album where I’ve really conquered that thing. I’ve been doing it onstage for quite a while, but I never really got it on record before. Listen to “Trouble At Home” and “I Had A Dream”. I’ve learned not to be afraid to leave spaces. We as guitar players, and you know this as well as anyone, guitar players are scared to leave a hole, afraid they’ll fall down it or something. [Laughing] They think of leaving a space but don’t leave one long enough. When you get into the habit of leaving a big space, what happens is that you’ll eventually become comfortable, and it becomes second nature for you to do that. You’ll become a much better player for it. If you’ve got an expressive style, and can express your emotions through your guitar, and if you’ve got great tone … For example, the people out there listening to you play, especially live, they won’t be able to wait for your next note. It creates a lot of tension for the audience. I remember going to see people like Peter Green in the old days and getting that feeling, “Oh man, I can’t wait to hear that guitar.” Or just one more note, because it sounds so beautiful when he plays it. That’s a very important aspect of it. It’s all down to the feel thing. If you’ve got a feel for the blues, that’s a big part of it. But you’ve got to leave that space.
BH) I agree, yeah. Last years “Old New Ballads Blues” was a fantastic album.
BH) I really enjoy “Gonna Rain Today”.
GM) Yeah. That was my favorite off that. That was a new song at the time. It’s like an old soul song really. Isn’t it?
BH) Yeah. It is.
GM) Kind of Stax, an old Otis Redding kind of thing.
GM) I love those kinds of songs. I think “I Had A Dream” is a little like that.
BH) Yes, it is.
GM) More like a soul song, almost verging on country actually, with that Telecaster in there. The melody is a little bit country almost, not like country and western. We’d never go that far. But it’s got that arpeggio, like a Steve Cropper thing, like “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”. That kind of thing. Of course, I’d never try and cover a song like that; that would just be crazy. [Laughing] You have to do your own version of that, in a way.
BH) “No Reason to Cry” was a good one, too. You had killer guitar tone on that.
GM) That was a country flavored song, too. That was a Telecaster as well.
BH) I was going to say, not only does it have that Telecaster tone, but it seems as though you got into a Roy Buchanan style as well.
GM) Absolutely. Well, I was listening to a lot of Roy Buchanan at that time. In fact, to tell you the truth, I was going to do a whole album with just a Telecaster. I really liked the idea, and thought, well, it’s not really me. But I still wouldn’t discount doing that because I do love that sound. He was one of those guitar players that I didn’t listen to for years. I had listened to him when he first came over here, and he had “Sweet Dreams” and all that, you know. But I kind of forgot about him because he wasn’t around anymore. I put on his compilation CD about three years ago and started listening to him again. I fell in love with his playing all over again. I’d forgotten how good he was. I started looking at his stuff on youtube. “Sweet Dreams” on there is beautiful. There are so many great little clips of him. It just brings it all back. It’s so sad that he’s not around. He’s such an important guitarist. He influenced Jeff Beck and so many people. You could tell he was a tortured soul in the way he played. You kind of have to be to play the way he played. His guitar would sound like a baby crying sometimes. It was so incredibly intense and emotional.
BH) Yes, it was. He’s one of my favorites as well. Tell me, did the success of “Still Got The Blues” surprise you?
GM) Yeah, because when we did it, we were just going to do this little blues album and a little tour of clubs for three or four weeks. I’d been playing rockers up until that point. I’d just been on this big tour for “After the War”, the album before it, and I was kind of sick of the whole thing. It makes me think of this old story. I’ve told it a few times, but, whenever I was in the dressing room on my own, I’d start playing blues to myself. One night, Bob Aisley, the bass player, came in and said, “You know, Gary, you should make a blues album next. It might be the biggest thing you ever did.” I laughed, you know. He laughed, too. But I did, and he was right, and it was. [Laughing] It turned out really well. But at the time, even halfway thru the album, I was getting cold feet a bit. I thought, shit, what are people going to think of this? Even the first gig I got booed. People were asking, “Where’s the real Gary Moore?”, and all this shit, you know. You’re looking at him, man, you know. But after that first gig it went really great. The gigs got bigger and bigger, and we ended up playing to like 100,000 people in a big park in the middle of Europe. It all got bigger and bigger, and the album sold 3 million in just a few months. It was a great time, yeah.
BH) I love your cover of Peter Green’s “Stop Messing Around” on that. In my opinion, it’s the best on record.
GM) I never thought I got it as good as him, going back to when it came out as a B side, back when I was sixteen. There are a couple of versions of the Fleetwood Mac one, a rawer version than this one, which is tighter with the horns and everything. When I first heard it, I just loved that guitar tone, kind of like, wow. He was obviously influenced by B.B. King and everything. Just his phrasing, the sweetness of the tone and everything, I thought it really swung so well.
BH) Talk about sweetness in tone, though. I can listen to “As the Years Go Passing By” endlessly. Sometimes I’ll just play that over and over. [Laughing]
GM) That’s an old Albert King song, as you know. His version is a bit different. I did that in more of a Fleetwood Mac kind of style really. That horn line, kind of melancholy, a New Orleans horn line with two saxes in harmony. It goes back to that “Love That Burns” song, that Peter Green thing. I used a Strat on that actually, for the main guitar.
GM) Nicky Hopkins played on it. He’s an incredible piano player.
BH) Is there a different mindset in being Gary Moore the bluesman as opposed to Gary Moore the rocker?
GM) I don’t even feel like Gary Moore the rock guitarist anymore. I’m not that guy anymore, to be honest with you. If I go back and listen to some of that stuff, I go, “Shit. Did I really play that?” It just sounds quite alien to me in some ways. Don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I don’t like rock. I like all kinds of music, but it’s just not the way I want to play. I just prefer the way I’m playing now. I know the hard rock fans want me to play what they like, but I’m in my fifties, and I always felt it was quite undignified to continue that sort of thing. I was lucky that in my thirties I went back to playing blues, which was my first love really. People hear you playing rock first and they think that’s where you came from. But I came from the blues. Back in Belfast, me and Rory Gallagher used to play the same clubs. He was a few years older than me. We used to lend each other our guitars because we couldn’t afford spare strings. [Laughing] There was a lot of camaraderie there. He was a beautiful guy. When he came to Belfast, he was very, very nice to me, and very kind. I was just a kid and I used to open for him. That’s the music we were playing, and the music we loved and grew up on.
BH) Rory was another, like Roy Buchanan, who passed away in his prime. It was too bad.
GM) Yeah. I was just reading the book written by the bass player, Jerry McAvoy. He’s an old friend of mine. I haven’t been able to put it down. It tells the whole story, with a lot of references to Belfast. It’s particularly interesting to someone like me who came from there. It’s weird. He mentions a lot of gigs in there, like seeing Ten Years After play on the roof of a school. I was there that night. We went to a lot of the same gigs. It’s pretty strange.
BH) I’m curious to know if you’ve had the chance to hear Vivian Campbell’s “Two Sides of If”.
GM) No. I haven’t heard Vivian for a long, long time.
BH) He released a blues album last year, called “Two Sides of If”. Also a guitarist of Irish decent, he’s rooted in the blues even though he went off in a rock direction.
GM) I think he was a big Rory Gallagher fan.
BH) He’s a big Gary Moore fan as well.
GM) I know that because I’ve met him. I know about that.
BH) In fact, his blues-rock style is a lot like both you and Rory, in my opinion.
GM) That’s interesting.
BH) Do you still play the older songs in the live atmosphere, like “Parisienne Walkways”?
GM) Yeah. I can hardly get away without doing it. We end with that actually, in the last encore. It’s quite a long version, because I like to draw things out. In fact, somebody wrote a really good review about me one time. It made me laugh so much. You know, those Spinal Tap type reviews, they’re quite insulting but funny. In it he said, “Gary Moore is one of those musicians who likes to play a song four minutes after it’s finished.” [Both laughing] That’s wrong, it’s ten minutes after it’s finished!
BH) I think we’re all like that at times.
GM) Well, guitar players. If we can squeeze a bit more out of it, we’re gonna do it. Aren’t we? [Laughing]
BH) Yes, we are! I've been there, too. [Laughing] What are your personal favorites of your own material?
GM) I tend to like the stuff more after 1990. I like some of the rock stuff. I like the Celtic influence rock stuff like “Over the Hills and Far Away” from “Wild Frontier”, and “Blood of Emeralds” from “After the War”. “Out in the Fields” I quite liked. I like the ones where the lyrics were about something, as opposed to the usual rock stuff. I like “Still Got the Blues” very much. I like “Parisienne Walkways” and “Walking By Myself”. I like “Pretty Woman”. I like a lot of the new stuff off of this record because it has given me a chance to change a lot of the set, which is great. Some of the songs were getting stale. We’ve been playing five or six of the new songs already and people really like them. It’s funny how much they like the ones like “I Had A Dream” and “Trouble At Home”, because the album’s not even out obviously. Usually when you play new material to an audience in the middle of the old stuff they look at you a bit funny. They really react to those two songs in particular, and I feel really good about it, because you just don’t know what it’s going to be like. Maybe they’ll like the record, too, hopefully.
BH) Which of your DVDs capture the real Gary Moore?
GM) I don’t watch them very often, to be honest with you. The one I like is the one in which I play with B. B. King, and we do “The Thrill is Gone”. It was called “Live Blues”. It’s not even on DVD, just VHS. There’s “Live in Montreux”, “Evening of the Blues”, from Hammersmith and the “Still Got the Blues” tour, which had Albert Collins and Albert King playing with me onstage. Everyone thinks that’s the one, but actually, to be really frank with you, I wasn’t too crazy about the way I was playing at that time. I was still hanging on to the rock thing a bit more than I should have, in a way. I got a lot of criticism for that, and rightly deserved actually, in some ways. But the one after that, when I did the “After Hours” album and the little club gig we did, I like some of that because it’s kind of more intimate and a bit more soulful. B. B. King comes on and we did “Since I Met You Baby” and “Thrill is Gone”. It was just beautiful to play with him. It was a good version, too. That was “Live Blues”.
BH) Hopefully they’ll re-release that on DVD format someday. Who are your influences and inspirations?
GM) When I started off, it was Hank Marvin (The Shadows). I was only about ten years old, so that was in the early sixties, sixty-two and sixty-three. Then The Beatles came along, so obviously George Harrison. Then the big turning point for me was the Eric Clapton with John Mayall album, like a lot of people of my generation. The Bluesbreakers’ Beano album. It blew me away completely. I borrowed my friend’s copy because I couldn’t afford to buy it. I wore that out and scratched the shit out of it just learning the solos. “A Hard Road” came out after that, with Peter Green. That was another great moment. Then Mick Taylor came out on “Crusade”, and that was great. Jeff Beck was on the scene, and the Yardbirds, and then Jimi Hendrix. That whole sixties period was a great time for guitar and for young kids to be playing guitar. You had all of these incredibly unique guitar players with very strong identities and all great in their own way. I’m kind of a collection of all those guys really. Somewhere along the line it becomes you, if you’re lucky. They were my main influences. But in the seventies I moved on to all kinds of stuff. I was listening to John McLaughlin, Bill Connors with Chick Corea’s Return to Forever. I liked a lot of that stuff. I liked being in the area with a lot of that fusion stuff. I love Django Reinhardt. Obviously, all of the blues players, B. B. King, Freddie King. Otis Rush I loved very much. Albert Collins, Albert King, all of those guys really.
BH) You were friends with George Harrison.
GM) Yes, I was.
BH) Was he really the gracious, laidback Beatle that everyone seems to think?
GM) [Laughing] He was like most people, you know. He had different sides to him. George was a character, and he was a very charismatic and special person. He was kind and had an incredible sense of humor, a very funny guy. He had what we call a wicked sense of humor; he was quite naughty. He’d make you laugh. He was like a naughty school boy with a glint in his eye. That was George. He was a great guy, and I had some great times with him. I also had some embarrassing moments, like the time he played me the opening chord to “A Hard Day’s Night”. It wasn’t the way I had played it all those years. I said, “Is that right?” [Laughing] “Are you sure that’s right, George?” He looked at me and went, “Yes, Gary. It’s right.” [Both Laughing] I felt like shit, like the earth was swallowing me up. At least he showed me the chord. All my friends didn’t know it, but I learnt it. Actually, when he showed it to me it made perfect sense because the arpeggio at the end of “A Hard Day’s Night” is that chord broken down. It was great being around him and playing all those Beatle guitars that were all hanging up on the wall in his home studio. He’d take the Richenbackers down, and the one Clapton gave him after “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”, that red Les Paul, as well as the Gibson acoustics and stuff. It was great, like being a child in a toyshop.
BH) And Peter Green. Talk about how haunting and inspirational his playing was. What about when you saw him play live?
GM) Oh, yeah! It was like he had a halo around him. I saw him in clubs when he played all that stuff, and he was phenomenal. The guy was like, wow, out of this world. His tone and everything about him, he had incredible depth, soul, and tastefulness, just amazing.
BH) And Phil Lynott.
BH) And Phil Lynott.
GM) Phil and I were friends since I was about sixteen. We lived together even after he got kicked out of the band (Skid Row). Before we formed Thin Lizzy, we were living in a bedsit, which is just like one room with a couple of beds. There were three of us living in one room pretty much for quite a while. In those days, Phil was really on the ball. He was like a workaholic. He worked so hard to get where he got. It wasn’t easy for him.
BH) Do you still own the Peter Green ’59 Les Paul?
GM) No. I don’t.
BH) There was always a lot of speculation about the sound of the pickups because of the way the magnet was wired.
GM) The neck pickup was turned the wrong way around by mistake, the whole pickup. We liked the sound, so we just left it like that. In fact, when I had it, someone turned it back around the right way. I was going to kill him. [Laughing] The tech said, “I took your guitar and cleaned it up last night because it was a bit dirty. I saw that one of the pickups was turned around the wrong way. Did you know that? So, I fixed it.” I said, “Do you wanna die?” [Laughing]
BH) That’s pretty funny. Do you want to say anything else about the new CD, “Close As You Get”?
GM) No. I’m happy with that. I just really enjoyed making the album. I did it all live. Except for one solo, all of the solos are live on the backing tracks. I didn’t overdub hardly anything. Even some of the vocals are live. We did three tracks the first day, in the old style; play it a few times until you get it right. That’s kind of how it sounds. It’s a very honest record.
BH) Can you give me a quick rundown on your gear, live and in the studio?
GM) In the studio I used that Fender Vibroverb. I used a mid-sixties Vox AC30 on “Thirty Days” and the opening track, “If the Devil Made Whisky”. I used an Orange Tiny Terror. It’s a 15-watt, and it looks like a little toy. I haven’t even got the wood around it. It’s in a white metal casing with a handle, and it comes in a gig bag. It switches from 15 watts down to seven. You just whack it up. I used it with a little Marshall 2/12 hand wired cabinet on “Eyesight to the Blind”. I used my DSL Marshall 100, or 50, depending on the select, on “Have You Heard”, “Checkin’ Up On My Baby”, and stuff like that. So, I basically used the Fender Vibroverb, the Vox AC30, and the Marshall DSL, which are my live amps, the 2000 series. I’ve actually got the very first one, the prototype, given to me before they were in the shops or anything. I’ve been using that amp for ten years now. It’s my live amp, and I haven’t really changed from that. They’ve got new ones out now, but I still prefer the DSL. Though I’ve got a few, I’ve got to get some more before they stop making them. They’re such a great amp. They’ve got a good normal channel, a lead channel as well, which I rarely use, to be honest. I kind of use the normal channel and a pedal for the gain. It has a good spring reverb in it, so when I want to go into that slow minor blues, I just whack the reverb up and it’s all there. It’s a very versatile amp. It’s very reliable, big tone. It’s a phenomenal amplifier. I use a 100-watt one of those onstage with four Celestion Vintage 30s, one top and one bottom. I started onstage using a 59 reissue, which is the old 4-input Marshall, the standard one. I’ve got it next to the other one onstage now. I switch between them. I never use both amps at once or anything like that. I didn’t use any pedals whatsoever in the studio for this one, just guitar and amp. I kind of made that rule before I went in. I just wanted to see what I could do with the guitar and the amp. Onstage, I use T-Rex pedals. At the moment I’m using a T-Rex Moller Overdrive, Mudhoney Overdrive, and the blue one (T-Rex Alberta). I also use the Room-Mate Reverb and the Replica Delay. So I use, like, five of their pedals. They’re very nice pedals. They sound real big and very warm. They’re made in Denmark actually. The Moller Overdrive has two foot switches on it, a boost and a distortion. You can use them separately or together. The clean boost is great and the distortion is great. If you whack them both in together you get almost into a Hendrix sort of territory.
The guitars are my 59 Les Paul, a 60s 335, and a 68 Telecaster. That’s pretty much it really. I use my signature Les Paul onstage as well. I use mostly Les Pauls live.
BH) Well, thanks, Gary. Let me just end by saying once again that we have a huge amount of Gary Moore fans over here in the States who are waiting for that Gary Moore tour to happen.
GM) It would be nice to do it. Thank you.