Home / Interviews / 20 Questions / 20 Questions with Paul Gilbert, 4/27/04

20 Questions with Paul Gilbert, 4/27/04



Ex-Mr. Big Guitarist Paul Gilbert

We heard at our last Metal Sludge Extravaganza, that Paul Gilbert was in attendance, so we figured if he can come to one of our parties, then he should also do 20 Questions! So we fired off these 20 Questions to him without even asking if he wanted to do them, and he sent them back within 24 hours! Enjoy!

1. What are you currently up to? Get all of yourvplugs out of the way now so we can get down to
I’m trying to sell this stupid old car that I bought on ebay. What was I thinking?… I’m taking a vacation from self-promotion, so I’ll plug my favorite Pat Travers album, “Go For What You Know”. Buy it and rock.

2. What happened that Mr. Big finally gave it up and called it a day? In your opinion, what was so bad that you guys couldn’t continue on as Mr. Big? Let’s hear your take on it.
Our personalities weren’t fitting together very well. It was a shame. We were living the rock and roll dream and not enjoying it nearly as much as we could have. I got out to try to enjoy it. I have, but now I’m half deaf from it!

3. You’ve recorded all kinds of cover songs over the years, from Enuff Z’Nuff and Judas Priest homages to ditties by Carole King and ABBA. Of all the cover tunes you’ve laid to tape, in your opinion, which one turned out the best, and which one should not have ever been heard by human ears?
I did demos of Janet Jackson’s ballad “Come Back to Me” and Vanessa Williams’s “Save the Best For Last”. I don’t plan on releasing those strange experiments. I think I need to do this sort of thing to balance out my brain from listening to so much Accept and Loudness when I was 18. The best cover? I thought Racer X’s “Godzilla” turned out really good.

4. What hard rock/heavy metal band should give it up and call it a day?
Any of them that try to update their sound. To me all the best metal records were recorded between 1968 and 1984. I don’t want to hear metal people singing like Pearl Jam. I want to hear them singing like Klaus Meine.

5. Rate the following guitarists on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 being a schmuck 10 being a modern day
George Lynch = 10 in 1983
Warren DeMartini = 10 in 1983
Yngwie J. Malmsteen = 10 in 1985
Akira Takasaki = 10 in 1982
Richie Kotzen = 10 on those crazy fusion records
Jason Becker = 10. I hope he’s hanging in there.
Nuno Bettencourt = 10 now
Billy Morris = 10 in my band!
CC DeVille = 10. I don’t know why.
CJ Szuter = Ha! You Sludge guys know all the dirt!

6. For a tax-free $10,000 in cash: There are 3 shot glasses filled to the brim in front of you. One contains Marty Friedman’s saliva, the second is filled with Al Pitrelli’s spinal fluid, and the third contains a urine sample from Steve Vai. You have to throw back all three in succession, swallowing every last drop. Would you do it?
I don’t want to drink those things. No thanks.

7. The Last of Paul Gilbert:
Last guitar you bought = 1978 Ibanez Artist 12-string.
Last song you wrote = “Boku no Atama wa Tomato de Dekimasu”. I’ve been writing songs in Japanese to try to memorize useful phrases. This one means “My head is made out of tomatoes”.
Last song you heard on the radio that you really dug = I only listen to the oldies station. But I really like The Darkness. I bought their CD.
Last movie you saw in the theatre = Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. But I’ll say RAMBO VS. THE TERMINATOR because it sounds more metal.
Last tribute album you played on = Some KISS one. I don’t know what it’s called, but Kip Winger sang on the track. He sounded great.
Last nice thing you had to say about Billy Sheehan = Billy is awesome. His bass playing is amazing and totally unique. I’m proud to have played with him.
Last really gross thing you accidentally stepped in = Mostly I hit my head on stuff, being tall and in Japan a lot. It’s not gross, but a metal bar across the forehead will always wake you up.
Last time you appeared on television = In America? Somebody told me they saw David Letterman making fun of one of my instructional videos. I probably deserved it. Justice served.
Last time you played guitar with a power drill = Don’t make me do that anymore!
Last time you jacked off = Dude, haven’t you ever seen a heavy metal video before? There are girls all over the place. And they all want ME because I can go WIDDLY WIDDLY WOW WOOOO on my guitar. Problem solved.

8. A few years ago, you collaborated with Don Dokken to record a soundtrack for a Japanese cartoon series. What the dickens was that all about, and how did it go working with Don?
A Japanese guitarist named Hatake put that together. I just went in and played some guitar. Don did his parts later so I didn’t get to tell him how much I dig “Burnin’ Like a Flame”.

9. We heard you ride your bicycle to the studio everyday. Isn’t it a pain in the ass to lug a guitar case, patch cables, and all that kind of shit with you on a bike? Wouldn’t it be more practical — and safer — to simply drive?
My bike route is right through Hollywood so there’s tons of traffic and big buses all over the place. I like the adrenaline of dodging all the vehicles. It keeps me in the metal spirit. The guitars are at my studio, so I just carry my keys and my tire pump.

10. Yes or No, has Paul Gilbert ever:
Met Cat Stevens = No.
Made fun of a homeless person = He was BARKING!
Eaten at McDonald’s and Burger King in the same day = No.
Been annoyed with inaccurate closed captioning text = Yes. Deaf guitarists like to watch Seinfeld too.
Gotten fitted for a hearing aid = Those mono Beach Boys mixes are sounding better and

Refused a fan’s request for an autograph = I’m sure there are some people mad at me somewhere.
Had lunch with Neil Zlozower = I can’t remember. Mostly Neil takes pictures.

Prank called Jeff Berlin = No. He’s a boxer. Don’t mess with him.
Seen Billy Morris naked = No. No thank you.
Touched another man’s penis = When Michael Jackson took me to Neverland Ranch, at
first I thought he was just being friendly, but then… Wait, no. That wasn’t me.

11. Back in the day, part of your live performance included playing guitar with a power drill. This all came to head while Mr. Big was on tour with Rush, specifically the Omni in Atlanta on May 1st, 1990. Please tell us exactly what went wrong with the power drill, and how did Rush’s crew and the band themselves react?
I was alone, onstage, playing my solo in front of 15,000 people. I had long permed heavy metal hair. The drill was spinning. Suddenly they met! And a tangle ensued. Like Excalibur could not be pulled from the stone, the Drill could not be untangled from my hair. My roadie got the scissors, but I protested. “HAIR IS TOO IMPORTANT” I screamed. Suddenly I was surrounded by the entire RUSH and Mr. Big crew all with various plans to remove the drill and pointing flashlights at my head. Luckily I had put leave-in conditioner in my hair before the show and combined with slowly unwinding the drill by hand, the heroic crew was able to pull the power tool from my precious locks. Billy provided an impromptu bass solo while all this was going on. I think Spinal Tap would be proud.

12. Seriously! Don’t you think Jimi Hendrix is overrated already?
Everybody’s overrated. That’s what magazines, MTV, and promotion are all about. I really like listening to Jimi Hendrix records. I’ll skip the magazines.

13. Which do you prefer and why:
Black & Decker or Makita = Makita. I’ve never tried Black and Decker. Are they good?
Mike Varney or Jim Varney = Who is Jim Varney? Mike gave me my first record deal and told me to play fast all the time. For this, I will always think he’s great.
Hanoi Rocks or Mötley Crüe = Motley Crue. As long as Tommy Lee is playing drums.
Dean Markley or Ernie Ball = Ernie Ball strings are the best.
John Alderete or Mike Szuter = John for metal. Mike for pop.
Arby’s or Subway = I love the subway in Tokyo. I’m scared of driving on the other side of the road.
Kajagoogoo or Spandau Ballet = Kajagoogoo! “Too Shy” is awesome.
Learning sign language or learning to read lips = Hey, it’s not so bad. With my tinnitus, I always have a note to tune to. And if I put my good ear on a pillow, I can sleep through anything. Plus it gives me an excuse to wear big headphones on stage. I’m protected from the volume and from getting drills stuck in my hair.
Paul Reiser or Gilbert Gottfried = Gilbert O’ Sullivan and Paul McCartney.
Jeff Martin or Eric Martin = Jeff Martin is a singer. Eric Singer is a drummer.
I left Jeff Martin’s band in the 80’s to play with Eric Martin, who is a singer. Then Jeff Martin decided to play drums and replace Eric Singer, who is a drummer, in Badlands. After that, Jeff Martin played drums on my solo albums, but later became a singer again. Eric Singer is still playing drums. I saw him with KISS and he was also a really good singer. Eric Martin started as a drummer, but always knew he was better as a singer.


Jeff wins. He’s a blast to play with whether it’s on drums or singing, and he’s one of my best friends.

14. What ‘rock star’ deserves a smack in the mouth and why?
I saw Pat Travers around 1983. He had this harmonica player who played in every song and made all the metal songs sound bluesy. That was just wrong.

15. What do you remember about writing or recording the following songs:
Blowin Up The Radio = I tried to imagine what kind of guitar riff I would want to hear if I was in the audience at a metal show. That one came out.
Scarified = Scott Travis started playing that insane drum intro and I put some notes to it. The middle part I stole from J.C. Bach.
Heart Of A Lion = This is a Judas Priest song that Racer X covered. Jeff Martin had a demo of it and we learned it.
Wind Me Up = This is the riff to “Pretty Woman” backwards.
Green Tinted Sixties Mind = Kelly Keeling sang on the demo. I played for the guys in Mr. Big and they thought, “Weird title, but cool song.”
To Be With You = Eric Martin wrote this song. He didn’t think any of us would like it because it’s wasn’t metal. But we liked it.
Colorado Bulldog = It’s a fast song and the name of a drink. I play fast in it.
I Like Rock = I used 100 guitars on this one.
Lay Off the Morphine = My drug is being a musician. This song is about my overdose.
Potato Head = This is my elitist punk song. I wrote it for a Japanese band, and then recorded myself on a live record.

16. Who’s the most overrated band today and why?
I like that The Darkness sings funny and still sounds good. I like Puffy and The Brilliant Green. I don’t know many other new bands. Who is good?

17. Give us your fondest touring memory from the following cities:
Chicago = Eric Martin accidentally hit my guitar with his face. It wasn’t my fault!
Seattle = I hit my head really hard on the ceiling of some old theater. Michael Wilton was there and I kept calling him Eddie Jackson.
Miami = I took a walk outside the hotel and a gang of kids on bikes rode past me and kicked me. Wait, you wanted FOND memories..
San Francisco = The early Racer X shows at The Stone were amazing. I would drive up from L.A. and eat only donuts and then play really fast.
London = I did a guitar seminar and Brian May saw it. He bowed down to me afterwards and said “I’m not worthy”. He’s worthy.
Toronto = I did a guitar seminar inside a church. I had some Black Sabbath on my setlist and it was fun to play it where you’re not supposed to.
Detroit = There was some big club there that Mr. Big always used to play. We had really good shows there.
Munich = Mr. Big played at some venue that was normally a circus. We were opening up for White Lion and they weren’t giving us much use of the P.A. of lights. Plus we were having all sorts of band drama on our own bus. Somehow the show was still killer.
Tokyo = Everybody knows we played the Budokan a bunch of times. So I’ll pick a different story. I ate a bad chicken taco and got really sick. I spent the day in the hospital hooked up to an IV and then played with my favorite Japanese girl group PUFFY that night on TV. I was so wiped out, I looked like Keith Richards. I wish I could look like that without the bad chicken.
Baltimore = My parents would always drive down from Pittsburgh to see me at “Hammerjacks”. I had a hot girlfriend named Rana and I didn’t know if my parents would approve, so
I acted like an idiot. Sorry Rana, you were cool.

18. The content of your Web site is pretty whacked. Are you trying to make some sort of statement? Or do you just have a lot of time on your hands these days?
I’m just trying not to be boring.

19. Racer X keeps playing gigs here and there. Why?
I’ve been making so many records, that I haven’t had much time for touring.

20. Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association. We mention a name and you give us your thoughts.
Don Dokken = Rokken
Bruce Bouillet = Great friend who cracks me up.
Gene Simmons = Awesome.
Jani Lane = I wish my name rhymed.
David Lee Roth = I wish he was 27 and in VH.
Billy Sheehan = Talas!
Vince Neil = Party Metal Dude.
Scott Travis = Best and tallest metal drummer.
Jeff Pilson = Rokken as well.
Eric Martin = Eric Singer is a drummer, but Jeff Martin is singer…

Thank you Metal Sludge. I hope I got some of the answers right.


Yes Paul, you got some of the answers right. Overall you got B!

For more info on Paul, you can visit www.PaulGilbert.com!

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