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Livewire's One on One

Earl Slick

Earl Slick's 30-year
affair with The Thin White Duke

Livewire's exclusive interview with guitarist Earl Slick

Jan. 18, 2004

In the world of rock 'n' roll, Earl Slick's a guy who's been around the block. This legendary guitarist's work has been featured on numerous Number One and Top Ten singles, not to mention a Grammy-winning album. He's toured the world several times, has recorded with artists such as John Lennon and Ian Hunter, and now has four of his own solo albums under his belt.
But perhaps Slick's biggest claim to fame is his continuing relationship with David Bowie; a relationship that, after three full decades, is still going strong. Slick started performing with Bowie back in 1974 right after David left not only his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust behind, but his own band The Spiders From Mars (featuring Mick Ronson on guitar) as well.
He's performed on three previous Bowie tours (1974's Diamond Dogs and The Soul Tour, as well as the immensely successful Serious Moonlight Tour in 1983) and is now back out on the road again with him until later this summer.
Although Slick fell out of the music business during much of the '90s, he's now back in the spotlight again with high-profile appearances on both Bowie's Reality album and world tour. As if that wasn't enough, he's also just released his first solo effort since 1992 entitled Zig Zag, an engaging album filled with both riveting instrumental tracks and vocal numbers featuring a wealth of talented singers (The Cure's Robert Smith, Spacehog's Royston Langdon, Def Leppard's Joe Elliot, The Motels' Martha Davis and even Slick's longtime boss).
Livewire's Tony Bonyata managed to track down Earl in-between his hectic tour schedule long enough to sit down over coffee to discuss his new album, some of his favorite guitarists, the large "empty spots" in his memory bank (aka the '70s) and the reason why Mr. Bowie will probably never lose his telephone number.

Livewire: I'm not really sure if I should congratulate you first on your great performance with David that I witnessed a couple of nights ago or your new solo album Zig Zag. So let's start off with Zig Zag. To be quite honest, I feel that this one of the most enjoyable solo efforts from an established guitarist. Between the instrumental and vocal numbers there's a nice rhythm and flow that runs throughout the entire album.

Earl: Thank you. You know, I like the record a lot. I don't sing. I'm a guitarist. I've done the rock instrumental records. The last one I did was quite some time ago and I just really didn't enjoy doing that anymore. I just approached this record with a bunch of instrumental songs that I wrote. Then David decided to get involved by singing and writing a song. That sparked me to say, 'You know what, there is no band. I don't sing - so there isn't an Earl Slick vocal sound. So I can pretty much do what ever I want to do musically.' And that's what I did. So it ended up a bit eclectic, which is fine.

Livewire: Personally, I think the album has a continuity running through it. The mix between singers and the flow of music doesn't seem patchy like other guitarist's solo efforts in the past. And obviously the singers that you have all seem to work very well together.

Earl: Yeah and they're all Brits. What is that? (laughs)

Livewire: Aren't most of the artists you work with?

Earl: It's true. I don't really know why. I haven't figured that out yet. (laughs)

Livewire: Let's go back to some of your earlier solo work. Your first band was The Earl Slick Band and then later in the '80s you formed the band Phantom, Rocker and Slick with two of the members from The Stray Cats.

Earl: Yeah, The Earl Slick records were in the '70s, then I worked with Ian Hunter in the late '70s; we had a band called Overnight Angels. Then I had a few other bands in the early '80s before I was working with Bowie again with the Serious Moonlight tour in '83. I did a lot of different things. Phantom, Rocker and Slick was '86 or '87 maybe.

Livewire: And then your last solo record was in '91, wasn't it?

Earl: '92. That was In Your Face on Metal Blade.

Livewire: Wasn't that largely an instrumental record?

Earl: Yeah, it was more of instrumental record. It was a chops record. It was a blues-rock record, but more towards the rock side of things. It's the first actual solo solo album I had done. It wasn't The Earl Slick Band, it was just me. I actually still like the record. It isn't what I would do now, though. My head's in a completely different spot.

Livewire: And those were all your own compositions?

Earl: Yeah, those were all mine. Actually mine and the guy who co-produced the record, Patrick Schunk, co-wrote that with me. We wrote them differently. The way that worked out, Patrick wrote a lot of the bed tracks and then I came in and did melodies and that. On this record [Zig Zag] I actually wrote the melodies on my own - as far as the instrumentals go. As far the vocal tracks went, all the guitar melodies and the chord structures were all done ahead of time and then the vocalist wrote the melody for the vocal and the lyrics. So it was two different things, the way it was written.

Livewire: I assumed that you'd done all of the compositions yourself.

Earl: Not for the vocalist, because I thought the best way to get the vocalist to do their best was to let them be who they are. What I learned from Mr. Bowie is that when you're working with people, get people that do a certain thing that you like and let them do that. I'm not from the school that you get somebody in there and then you start dictating how it should be done, because you're going to take the artistic mind of that person and shut it down. If you hire me to do something and we're not working together, I'll shut down. I'm not just a session guy. I can't do that.

Livewire: You're more of a collaborator?

Earl: I'm a collaborator and I'm an artist. And that's what I learned from David - get the people that you really want to do something that you really like, and let them do it.

Livewire: Is that how David's always worked?

Earl: Yes, that's how he works. Everybody that was involved in this record, I brought in because they all do something specifically well and I let them do it. And they did it.

Livewire: After In your Face in the early '90s you didn't record for over ten years. Why did you take such a long hiatus from music?

Earl: There was period of time in the early '90s where I was involved in a few bands and then I did the In your Face record and I wasn't very happy with the way any of it was going. Not only artistically, but business-wise as well. So I stepped out for awhile. I stepped out from about '94 to probably '98 or '99.

Livewire: You didn't play at all, not even at home?

Earl: No, I stepped out. I went through a period of about a year where I stored everything and I didn't touch anything. It was a weird artistic meltdown (laughs).

Livewire: From playing on best selling albums and world tours to nothing?

Earl: What had happened was, I got to a point where, not only was I not enjoying anything, but nothing was really working out. And I'm not blaming anybody. I'm not blaming the music business and I'm not blaming the people I was working with. I just made choices that I didn't want to be in. I wasn't enjoying the business anymore. I didn't even enjoy playing anymore and it was very disheartening. So I thought, 'Just get out! You've done well so far. Leave before you turn into someone that's a hack.' If you're not enjoying it anymore, you can turn into a hack - if you're just doing it because that's what you think you're supposed to do. I know that sounds kinda strange from somebody who's done this full-time all their life, but it's the best thing I ever did.
Another reason I backed out of the business in the '90s because I'm an intense person and I'm an intense guitar player. People sometimes make the mistake that because of that I play heavy metal. But if you really listen to work I've done...there's not a lot of aggressive guitar on the John Lennon records. As far as the aggressive stuff on the Bowie records, it's aggressive but it's not Joe Satriani, it's not Steve Vai. All of a sudden I felt that I was being thought of as this "rock guy" guitar player. It's hard to explain. I must've done something to get there, but I ended up being portrayed more as this sort of in-your-face metally guy. I read it one time too many times. And I was always getting called to do the heavier stuff. It's a weird thing.

Livewire: Speaking of the stuff you did with Lennon, the one really aggressive thing you do on Double Fantasy is that killer guitar-line on "I'm Losing You."

Earl: Thanks. That's heavy as hell and it's intense as hell but it's not...

Livewire: I have to admit when that album came out in '80, that was the one song that I had to play over and over because of that guitar.

Earl: Thank you. I'm starting to sound like the "misunderstood artist." (laughs)

Livewire: So what sparked you again?

Earl: David! Actually David Coverdale, the singer from Whitesnake, did a solo record and I wrote that with him in '98 and recorded it in '99 which got me thinking a little bit, but not all the way to where I was going to really pursue it again. Then I got a call from David's [Bowie] office either the last week of '99 or the first week of 2000 and we started working together again, and over the course of that first part of the year in 2000 I started to get re-inspired. And within a year of working with David I started writing again. And I didn't write for any specific reason. I didn't write because I was going to make a record or anything...I just started writing again. That's really great, too, when you write when you don't really have to. One thing lead to another, and it evolved into me wanting to make a record. But that's what really got me out of it. And I thank him for that.

Livewire: Didn't you also do some spot shows with David for his Heathen album, like the Five Boroughs mini tour of New York?

Earl: Yeah, I did the Five Boroughs. I've done everything live that's he's done since 2000.

Livewire: So what do think it is about your style of playing that keeps David calling you back?

Earl: I think that I add an element of urgency - especially live, because I love performing live - and it's that harder edged aspect that he likes in some of the stuff.

Livewire: Well, its apparent to see how much you enjoy performing just from the few times I've seen you play.

Earl: I love performing live.

Livewire: It must be nice actually getting back out there and doing it again, after such a long break.

Earl: Well, I promised myself that if I was going to get back out there and do it, then it would have to be under the right circumstances. And I had to have the balls to turn down the shit that I didn't want to do.

Livewire: You've incorporated the talents of many great singers here, from Robert Smith and Royston Langdon to Joe Elliot and, of course, David. Other than David, have you worked with any of the other singers here before?

Earl: The way the singers worked out was actually funny. When I decided to make a record I decided to call up Mark Plati, who produced the album and was also in David's band at the time playing guitar. So I called him up and I said, 'Look, I wanna make a couple of demos, so why don't we get some studio time and go do it?' Apparently David was there at the time and overheard the conversation and I got a call back from him. He goes, 'So I guess you don't want me to be involved, like maybe doing some background vocals or something else?' And I'm like, 'Oh, let me think about that.' (laughs) So that's all I really thought was going to happen. I don't even remember how it happened, but then all of a sudden we were writing a song and then we cut that track. At that point that was going to be the only vocal, I hadn't really thought about it. Then I went into the studio with Mark Plati and we redid a song called "The Forest" by The Cure, which is on the new box set. So it's me and Mark and Robert Smith is singing, and it's all my guitars. My demos were already done, so when Mark went to England to mix that, Robert heard the thing and all of sudden he was involved. I never asked him.

Livewire: And that song "Believe" is now the first single from the album?

Earl: Yeah, that's the first single. And then the Joe Elliot thing was funny because a mutual friend of ours sent him a copy of the track that he [later] did. And he loved it and went into the studio and did the vocals and I get this CD back with Joe Elliot vocals on it.

Livewire: So you didn't even know that he was going to do it?

Earl: Well, I knew that he had it and was interested in doing something, then all of a sudden it showed up done. He did a great job on it. And what happened with Roy Langdon from Spacehog, I had just moved and I was going through my boxes of CDs, you know how it is when you're unpacking and you're like (in an excited voice), 'Oh I haven't heard this in awhile! I'm gonna put this on!' I'm not getting any unpacking done, I just ended up listening to CDs. And so I said, 'Oh my Spacehog thing!,' and I put my Spacehog record on and I go 'Holy shit, I love this guy. We gotta find him,' because the record wasn't done yet. Actually it was Frankie LaRocca, the same friend that contacted Joe, who also knew Roy. So that's how we got him. And Martha Davis was contacted through a mutual friend. That's what I like about this album more than anything else, it just fell into place. It wasn't contrived and it wasn't stressful. It was fun. I didn't have any time constraints on me, because that record took two years to finish because of the touring schedule I was on.

Livewire: The shows with David?

Earl: Between David and then I'd gone to Japan for awhile touring with a Japanese singer. It was one thing after another. I was like, 'I gotta get home and finish this record one of these days.'

Livewire: Getting back to your single "Believe," do you have any plans to do a video for it?

Earl: The video thing is a funny thing...

Livewire: These days.

Earl: Yeah, these days it's funny. There was a time that if I did a video with Robert Smith or David Bowie we could get it on serious rotation. It's changed, though. Things are different now.

Livewire: They really don't even show Bowie's videos anymore, and that's a crime.

Earl: It is what it is, and it's a whole conversation that we could go on for days about! What I'm planning on doing is to film little snippets, of which we already have, of some backstage stuff and hopefully awaiting some footage from Robert. We're going to put it up on my site and on the Sanctuary Records site and maybe on The Cure site for the fans. Very low-key, home movie type, cool shit without spending a trillion dollars on it.

Livewire: You recorded the song "Isn't It Evening" with David. How did it feel to have him working on your album instead of the other way around?

Earl: In all honesty, it wasn't a whole lot different than the way we would normally work. I gave him about seven or eight pieces of music - very rough, some of them were just guitars recorded on one of these things (points down to my small mini disc recorder) and he picked the one that turned into "Isn't It Evening." He came in with some lyric and melody ideas and we put the track together and he was like, 'What do you think about this?,' and I was like,'That's cool,' and he's like 'Let's go ahead and put another verse in here," which felt very normal.

Livewire: Is that how you've always worked with David in the past?

Earl: Yeah, it wasn't all that different. It was amusing to me at times, though. I used to chuckle, 'He's doing this song for my record.' It was like a role reversal, but the process wasn't that different.

Livewire: That's pretty cool.

Earl: It was way cool!

Livewire: Do you have any favorites from Zig Zag?

Earl: My favorites from Zig Zag change with the breeze. Actually this week it's "Pike St."

Livewire: That's my favorite instrumental track from the album. It really has a great sense of power and drive.

Earl: Oh, "Pike St." is pissed off! Of the vocal tracks it was David last week and it's Robert this week - because the single was just released. It was Joe three weeks ago. Next week it'll be David again. It was Royston a month ago. It changes.

Livewire: Royston's vocals sound very similar to Bowie's on his track.

Earl: Well, if you think about the singers on the record...I mean, Joe Elliot's a big David Bowie fan, Robert's very influenced, Roy's very influenced and I'm very influenced, and it's what I like.

Livewire: When you finish up David's Reality World Tour later this summer do you have any plans on taking any of your new songs on the road, either as a tour or spot gigs here and there?

Earl: Spot gigs would be more like it. It's hard to think about that or schedule that in the middle of this thing right now. I'd like to grab some of the guys and go out and do a few gigs. I'd love to get Joe out. Not necessarily a tour, but I'd love to go out and play some of those instrumentals live and get somebody who could sing some of the songs and just go out and have a good time.

Livewire: Let's go way back for a moment; I read somewhere that it was The Beatles' appearance on The Ed Sullivan show in '64 that first inspired you to play music. Is that true?

Earl: I was definitely inspired when I saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan. Then it was one thing after another - it was The Beatles and The Stones and all that. But The Beatles were the ones that got me going. I'm sure it was a combination of watching the hysteria.

Livewire: Which was very easy to get sucked into.

Earl: Yeah, and then I found out that I liked to play music as a result of that. That got the ball rolling. The Beatles had a lot of influence on me as far as what got me interested in the first place, but I think that as far as influences that have stuck with me, it's been a lot more of a Stones thing. You can ask any guitar player and Keith Richard's name always comes up. I'm sure that comes up in every interview you do with a guitarist. He's the essence of the whole thing, without a doubt. So there's been a lot of inspiration from him. I learned how to play rhythm guitar from listening to Keith Richards.

Livewire: You later got the chance to actually record with John Lennon for his Double Fantasy album. What was it like for you working with someone you've admired since you were a kid? Were you awe-struck?

Earl: You know, when I worked with John it was in 1980 and I had already worked with David so I'd been around a bit. I was awe-struck, but not to the point where I might have been had it happened a few years earlier. I might've been stumbling all over myself if it would've happened prior to hooking up with David. So it was like I was already in training. But, make no mistake, I'd still sit there on days and we'd be doing a take and I'd look over and I'd go, 'Fuck, that's John Lennon singing! What am I doing here?! This is weird.' I openly admit that. I'm not too cool to admit that when I was sitting in the studio with John Lennon I felt like a kid a lot of times. I would think that it was fuckin' ridiculous, because this guy is the guy that put me where I am, because of me seeing him on television fifteen years earlier.

Livewire: How did you manage to land that gig?

Earl: That's the big mystery. My manager was called by Jack Douglas, who produced the record, and John requested that I was on the record. I never really found out why.

Livewire: Don't you think that it could've been because of the work you both did on the songs "Fame" and...

Earl: Oh yeah, it was Bowie related, but I'm not sure why me. I really don't know the answer to that.

Livewire: You and Lennon are both credited with the guitars for "Fame" and "Across The Universe" on Young Americans. Didn't you actually record with Lennon and Bowie together in the studio for these?

Earl: I honestly don't think that we were in the studio at the same time. He thought we were.

Livewire: Lennon?

Earl: Yeah. It was a big joke. He's like, 'Oh, I haven't seen you since the...[Young Americans sessions]' and I'm like (in an unsure voice) 'Oh, really?' Unless I was that out of it (laughs).

Livewire: David's been quoted as saying he doesn't remember a good portion of the '70s due to his drug abuse during that period. It sounds as if you might have been down that same road.

Earl: Oh yeah, my drug abuse went straight up until the late '80s. There's lots of empty spots. Probably better that way (laughs).

Livewire: Before you starting working with David I understand that you were playing with Michael Kamen in the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble...

Earl: It was actually post-New York Rock and Roll Ensemble and Michael had just gone out solo.

Livewire: What was the style of music like from this band like? Was it like a huge orchestral rock band?

Earl: No, it was a little band. It was Michael on keyboards and singing. There was a bass player, a drummer, me, another guitar player and David Sanborn playing saxophone. It was a rock band, but Michael had quirky little classical melodies and things behind the vocals and stuff like that. That was their whole thing, because the original guys met in Juilliard. So they were all classically trained, but it was a rock band. God bless him, Michael passed away a month ago.

Livewire: Sorry to hear.

Earl: Yeah.

Livewire: And it was through Michael that you got hooked up with David?

Earl: Michael's another person who was extremely influential in my career. I met him when I was probably 19-years old. Actually, before I even ended up in his band he was producing demos for my band - trying to get me a record contract. And then I ended up in his band and he made the introduction for me and Bowie.

Livewire: Did you actually start touring with Bowie before you did any studio work with him?

Earl: Yeah, the first thing I did with Bowie was the Diamond Dogs Tour, which ended up yielding the David Live at The Tower album.

Livewire: Speaking of that particular tour, what was it like for you when, right in the middle of that tour, David decided to change from this large elaborate stage production of the Diamond Dogs show to the more stripped down Soul Tour?

Earl: It was a bit strange because the musical direction changed.

Livewire: When it went Philly soul?

Earl: Yeah, it went Philly. At the time I'm a 22-year old testosterone-run fuckin' rocker and I'm going, 'Hmm, this is kinda strange.' But then after that we'd go and do Station To Station, so you go figure.

Livewire: I had heard for the Diamond Dogs show that the musicians weren't even in the picture for much of the show.

Earl: No, we were. He had the sax players where they were almost invisible. Up at the front of the stage, though, you could see me and Herbie Flowers (the bass player) and Tony Newman (the drummer).

Livewire: When David introduced you the other night at the Rosemont Theatre he joked that you were the one that "ran way, came back, ran away, came back, ran away..." He really wasn't kidding, was he?

Earl: (Laughs) You know, things work out the way they work out. Sometimes I was there and sometimes I wasn't. I'm happy to be here now. I think this is a great time to be here.

Livewire: You're on quite a few of David's more classic albums, Young Americans, David Live, Station To Station ...

Earl: It seems that way.

Livewire: And now Reality.

Earl: I think Reality is going to be one of those records.

Livewire: It's a great record.

Earl: I think it's gonna go up there with certain other records that he's made that have stood out in time.

Livewire: Personally I feel that from Outside on, David's really been moving in the right direction.

Earl: The thing about David that's interesting is that he is an artist. Truly an artist, whereas a lot of pop stars, or rock stars, or whatever the hell you wanna call them, I hate all those words, David is a true artist. And that's what the magnetism is for me being involved. I get very bored with stuff that doesn't change. With a lot of artists there's a sound, and that's the sound...I just get fuckin' bored, you know. I don't know what my next record's gonna sound like, but I can guarantee you it isn't going to sound like Zig Zag. I really like the fact that David will really throw some weird shit at you at times. You're like, 'What the hell is that?!' And then you figure it out and you go, 'Oh, okay,' and you get it. You're always on your toes with David, and I like that.

Livewire: Do you have a particular favorite Bowie album that you've worked on?

Earl: It's always gonna be the same answer - the last one we did. Now it's Reality. And the favorite of my own is Zig Zag, 'cause I just did it. I don't even listen to my old albums. I listen to David's old albums more because we're always working material out, so I gotta keep... I don't like going backwards. It disturbs me.

Livewire: I suspect then that your favorite tour you've done with David is...

Earl: ...the one right now (laughs).

Livewire: It's an awesome show. It's nice that's its not a huge spectacle, but that the focus is on the music.

Earl: It think the staging and the whole thing is timely. I think we're doing exactly what we're supposed to be doing right now.

Livewire: How would would compare the Reality band you're with now with previous Bowie bands you've toured with?

Earl: It's my favorite band (laughs). Without a doubt.

Livewire: Next to The Spiders, which I've never actually seen in-person, mine too.

Earl: One thing about this band, and I'm not just comparing it to other Bowie bands but bands in general that I've been involved with, is that all the way from an artistic level to a personal level the band is very tight. We're tight as people, we enjoy each other's company. We don't have the standard 'shit disturber.' There's always that one guy in the band that's gonna act up. Everybody here is cool, we have a good time. There's no stress. It's not like 'Oh, I don't feel like seeing so-and-so today.' It happens, but it doesn't happen in this band. You can see it and hear it on stage.

Livewire: For the Serious Moonlight tour in '83 you were the last minute replacement for Stevie Ray Vaughn.

Earl: That's about right.

Livewire: What happened there?

Earl: I'm not all that interested in why Stevie was in or out of the band. I know what I read in the papers and I know what I heard from this guy and that guy. But I ended up getting called at the last minute.

Livewire: And that's the bottom line.

Earl: Yeah, I always try and find the bottom line and stick to it. The rest of it doesn't mean shit.

Livewire: Do you have any one single memorable event, or possibly even catastrophe, that's happened while on the road with David?

Earl: Oh god, (long pause) there's so many different things that've happened.

Livewire: No Spinal Tap incidents?

Earl: I'll have a Spinal Tap occasionally on stage, but...

Livewire: It seems that whenever this band makes a mistake that David has a wonderful way of highlighting these in a humorous way, which seems to pull the audience even closer to what you're doing on stage.

Earl: I have never seen a band live that doesn't make a mistake. The ones that don't make mistakes sound like fucking jukeboxes. You might as well just go home and listen to the CD and save the ticket money. So there's gonna be goof-ups. The other night I completely forget the beginning to "I'm Afraid Of Americans." What I was hearing in my head was an old Sly "Dance To The Music" funk thing and I'm going, 'I can't play that!' And I'm looking at Gerry, 'Start the friggin' song!,' you know (laughs). There's two ways to deal with that - you can laugh at it or you get really serious. I mean as long as you're not continuously going up on stage and forgetting your shit every night. But we're all gonna do things, so we make light of it. What else are you gonna do? It just ain't that fuckin' serious, it's a rock band. It may be a very famous guy fronting the rock band, and a wonderful guy fronting the rock band, but when we're on that stage we're a goddamn rock band and shit's gonna happen. Gears gonna break, you're gonna break a string, your guitar's gonna get turned off, a microphone's gonna break... We're there to have a good time and for the crowd to have a good time. Their paying money to see us and if we're running around the stage being all serious all night, nobody has a good time.

Livewire: Who's your favorite Bowie guitarist, including yourself?

Earl: Mick [Ronson]. Without a doubt.

Livewire: You actually...

Earl: ...replaced Mick! (laughs)

Livewire: Those are some pretty big shoes to fill!

Earl: I'm like the fuckin' S.W.A.T. team or something. I don't know what the hell...(laughs)

Livewire: First you swoop in on Mick's job and then there's Stevie Ray Vaughn and in you come...

Earl: (Laughs) Ask the boss about that if you ever interview him.

Livewire: Speaking of Mick, I couldn't help but notice the other night how close your sound was to Ronson's on "All The Young Dudes" and "The Man Who Sold The World."

Earl: There are things that we do...but there's some shit that Mick did that can't be done better. So why bother? Of all the stuff, on all the albums, I try and stick closest to Mick's stuff.

Livewire: You can't go wrong.

Earl: You can't. And it's so signature and just so right. For me, even like the solo in "Suffragette City" I really try and get the essence of it. It's inherent in my playing anyway, so it's not like I'm going out of style. If I was trying copy Stevie Ray Vaughn I would be out of my comfort zone - it's really a lot different than what I do. But Mick... I come from that same school.

Livewire: I agree. When you're playing live I don't hear you doing Stevie or even Adrian [Belew] or Robert Fripp.

Earl: No. I do an Earl Slick, which is a combination of everything that I learned from about the age of thirteen up to my early twenties, when most this stuff got into my head. Everything from Jeff Beck to Eric Clapton to Jimmy Page to Keith Richards to Jimi Hendrix - all of those guys that influenced me.

Livewire: So your guitar is more blues-rock based?

Earl: Yeah. It's blues-rock, but it's a little twisted.

Livewire: I almost sense from your expression that blues-rock is not necessarily a good term.

Earl: I got so pigeon-holed with that fucking term. It's there and I'm not gonna say it's not there, and I enjoy it and I did years of it, but its a term that...(laughs)

Livewire: I guess I'll lay low on mentioning anything blues-rock related then. Everybody talks about how great David looks for his age, which he certainly does, but you look pretty damn good yourself. You seem to be in great shape and obviously clean.

Earl: Oh yeah. No drink or drugs, (points to his lit cigarette) just these. I quit earlier this year for three or four months...and then something triggered me and I'm off to the gas station, 'Gimme two packs of Marlboros.' It wasn't even just one pack. I was like if I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it (laughs).

Livewire: So what do say when David picks up the phone 20 years from now and says, "Are you ready, Earl?"

Earl: I'm in! Why not. We were talking about this the other day. If this was in the '70s we couldn't be doing this at our age.

Livewire: Because of the destructive lifestyle you were leading?

Earl: No,. If we were the ages we are now in the '70s...Think about it, if you went to see a concert in the '70s how many rock bands that were older were able to go out with any credibility? We've been allowed to grow up with this business, which wasn't allowed before.

Livewire: In the '70s rock was still a relatively young art form.

Earl: Exactly. We we're talking about that too. This art form is now fifty years old. But anything in the '70s that wasn't current was considered a novelty oldies act - like doo-wop bands or rockabilly bands weren't viable anymore. But now every age group buys David Bowie records, I see them in the audience. Whereas, if this was back in the '70s and you had a band that was popular in the '50s you'd only see a crowd that was from the '50s.

Livewire: But if you went to see Chuck Berry today you'd see...

Earl: ...everybody. We've been allowed to grow with this business and not get stuck in the Vegas lounge act thing. Plus with David it's also a very different ballgame. He's not going out there and just playing a bunch of hits. We do them, but we do a mix of all kinds of shit. And there's always new material that's cutting edge that David writes. A lot of the older artists don't do that. I hate to even use the word 'old.' We're still here, you know. And we will be for awhile.

More Earl Slick
Concert Review (w/David Bowie) - Rosemont Theatre Jan. 13, 2004
CD Review - Zig Zag

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