Heavy metal musician Paul Gilbert is preparing to rock the walls of Reading’s Sub89 ahead of his live performance this September.
The Behold Electric Guitar Tour- which celebrates the release of the guitarist’s 15th solo album- will reach the underground music venue on Friday, September 20 before moving on to other venues in London, Southampton and Birmingham.
And Gilbert’s new solo album I Can Destroy confronts everything he has tackled as a musician.
He said: “One thing I’ve always struggled with as a writer is I don’t think I’ve written a lot of songs that make it easy on the improviser.
“Coming from a heavy rock background, that’s been a real challenge. But I worked really hard to rework all my fingerings so I could emphasize different tones the way my ear hears them.
“I’m still working on it, but that was a major step forward for me as a guitar player, to be able to get that sound on purpose, rather than by accident.”
I Can Destroy covers a spectrum of genres. The track One Woman Too Many hint a jazz-blues style, while I Am Not the One (Who Wants To Be With You) gives listeners a taste of Paul’s rock background.
And it’s producer Kevin Shirely which the guitarist can credit the success of his album to. He said: “One thing I knew about working with Kevin as a solo artist is that there weren’t going to be that many overdubs on the record, not that many takes, and not many fixes.
“As a musician, that puts the fear into you. It’s a good fear, and it made me want to prepare in a pretty healthy way.”
The guitarist plays alongside musicians Thomas Land (drums) and Kevin Chown (bass), as well as Tony Spinner and Freddie Nelson who joined Paul on the guitars for I Can Destroy.
Gilbert said: “We did a lot of guitar harmonies that were reminiscent of what you might hear on an Eagles song.
“Even though our style of music is probably different than that band, when you’ve got this line up and that set of instruments to orchestrate with, it’s inspiring. It’s like, ‘Man, we’ve got this, so let’s use it.’
They’re also singers in their own bands, so having guys like them behind me is good pressure. In a way, it makes it easier, because they sound so good, and I can just ride on top.”
The formation of the group fuelled Paul’s approach to his song writing for the album as well as his interest in exploring different music genres including Jazz.
He said: “At the time I began thinking about the record, I was having a lot of self-doubt.
“I was wondering if the well was dry, and if I could write anymore. But the enthusiasm of Kevin Shirley and the musicians in their responses to the ideas I was bringing up made the difference.”
He added: “The thing that really got me thinking about jazz was the fathers of a couple of my heroes — Eddie Van Halen and Pete Townshend —who were jazz saxophone players.”
And these emerging influences can be felt in the vibes of tracks One Woman Too Many and Everybody Use Your Goddamn Turn Signal.
Talking about the latter, Gilbert said: “It’s a contrast between the meaning of the word and the happy spirit we sing it with. The groove itself is a swing groove, which is connected to jazz.
The musician also found special inspiration for the title track to I Can Destroy. He said: “I was inspired by being a new dad, just watching my son tear things apart as he learns what the world is.
“In a way, he’s like an alien, because he’s never been to the planet before, and it’s my job to show it to him. Of course, it’s also his job to learn about it, and the way he often does that is figuring out, ‘What can I destroy and pull apart?’”
Ultimately, I Can Destroy celebrates the freedom and creativity Gilbert enjoys as a solo artist.
He added: “I do my best. It’s pretty incredible to have been living the dream and putting food on the table by banging it all out on an electric guitar.
“This is actually my 30th year as a recording artist, and I still enjoy the search. I like looking around, trying to find things I haven’t done yet, and then seeing if I can do them.”
For more information about Paul Gilbert’s gig at Sub89 log on to sub89.com.