Donnie’s chat with the great Jim Wilson continues…
Let’s talk about Motor Sister. I understand it took just two days to record, is that right?
Yeah!! The thing was we had only one day of rehearsal before we played Scott’s 50th birthday party. Fortunately everybody had done their homework so right from the beginning when we started playing we just looked at each other and starting laughing because not only was it so much fun to play but it sounded really great.
Even after the New York show the other day everybody kept saying that we sounded so tight and it’s not because we’ve all been playing together but because we are all seasoned enough now how to play more dynamically and pull back when we need to so we can come back and hit hard. Also that’s the relationship between hard rock and metal, you know? Are Black Sabbath hard rock or heavy metal? To me it’s goes hand in hand. I’ve never been in a heavy metal band as such but I’ve been in bands that are really heavy and get in your face. Punk rock is right there with it too. If you are a good punk rock player and be able to know how to play recklessly, that’s a talent. Take Steve Jones (SEX PISTOLS). He is a great guitar player, he’s punk but it’s rock n roll as well.
In terms of reckless the great Irish guitarist, and my personal favourite, Rory Gallagher, was known for playing every show right on the edge.
When we know we had this New York show coming up and on the record I played both my Stratocaster and my Les Paul and I was trying to decide which one to bring to the gig. I listened to Rory Gallagher and immediately said “I’m bring the Stratocaster”!!
Yeah, I think so!!
Back to the recording of “Ride”. Two days really is a quick turnaround.
We couldn’t have done it without John Tempesta first and foremost because if we didn’t get a really strong drum track then we couldn’t get a strong overall track. He is so solid. If you see the “Fork In The Road” video it’s kind of a making-of and shows that we set up in a circle so we could all look at each other, that way we could see when someone was about to go for it!!
For example, the guitar solos are never the same twice so it’s important if I go for six bars instead of four on a solo they can see that and it keeps it all live.
You do get that energy and spirit by doing like that. There is no recording the vocals weeks after the drummer and guitarist have done their parts. It’s very old school.
Yeah, it all happen at the exact same time. It wasn’t until we listened back to it that we thought “wow”. You could really hear it, you know. For me personally I get so involved in trying to be the best I’m usually paying so much attention to my own performance that I don’t need to worry about the other guys, because they are so good. With Mother Superior they were really good musicians but we were young and didn’t have the experience.
Of course now you have the experience you don’t have so much of that wasted time as you pretty much know what you want and how to get it.
It’s true. We are better players and we are more secure in ourselves. Scott adds his metal sound to it but he says when he first started playing guitar it was before Maiden and Priest and he was listening to Ted Nugent and Aerosmith and playing rock n roll guitar. That was it sounds like to us and it’s fun to relate to each other in that way.
Jay Ruston (ANTHRAX, STEEL PANTHER) was the producer and he has a studio in L.A. that allows us to set up in a circle and capture that spirit in the big open room.
There are 12 tracks on this release so how did you go about choosing them?
It was Scott’s idea and wish to have us play for his birthday so he pretty much picked the songs from a playlist he had in his mind and then later on he forgot a couple of his favourites!! 12 tracks was a lot to ask people to learn for the party but I was relieved when he made the list to save me thinking about it and I loved all the ones he chose.
I wrote all of the lyrics for Mother Superior, as well as the guitar riffs, and as the singer I said I wanted to write the lyrics and I spent a lot of time making the words work so I could really feel them. Instead of listening to the old material I sat down and sang the songs in my head and that’s how I remembered all the words and it all came back to me. It’s a good blend on the album as well, not just all the heavy tracks.
That’s true. Listening to it there is a nice balance across the album almost like a greatest hits. It’s gives a great snapshot of Mother Superior.
Very true. I haven’t heard any complaints from the old school fans yet!!. We’ve talked about the possibility of making another album and are definitely going to do some kick-ass new material. I’m collecting some new riffs and Scott and I have talked we are going to work on some rock n roll music, which is not what he’s known for.
He did The Damned Things album a few years ago that was more rock than thrash but that’s about it?
Yeah, he did. That was great. I’ve known Scott for a while and he never stops. He’s always on the go and he’s a music fan. We constantly talk about the latest Kiss or Cheap Trick bootlegs we’ve found. We are still just rock n roll geeks!!
Nothing wrong with that!! On the subject of never stopping the same could be said of yourself. You’ve worked with many of the great and the good of the music business from Iggy Pop to Sparks.
I’ve been lucky and I’ve no idea how it has all happened!! Sparks was a great treat for me as I loved them when I was in high school. At one point I entered a contest in the fan club and I won a poster and later on I showed it to the guys and they couldn’t believe it!! It was a dream come true as I never thought they would even want another guitar player less that I would be the guy.
You played 21 albums in 21 nights or something like that with them didn’t you in 2008 in London?
Russell (Mael – vocalist) told me that they wouldn’t have done it if I wasn’t on board. In France they was a magazine that did a huge Mother Superior story and they actually asked me to interview Sparks as they knew I was a fan so I interviewed Ron (Mael – keyboards) and Russell so they knew I knew a lot about them and their discography. I’m not saying that I could easily play everything from the albums but I was at least familiar with the songs.
We saw each other for about six hours a day at their house to rehearse the albums and this went on for a few months. In London it was like The Monkees, all living in the same house having breakfast and then rehearsing!! When each album ended we could forget about it!!
Back to Motor Sister and what’s happening in terms of shows to promote the album and your immediate plans?
We are trying to squeeze stuff into the end of March at the moment as obviously the schedules can get tricky. We will let the album build up a bit more and the have a couple of shows in L.A. and San Francisco to look forward to. The booking agent is looking at June to see what might be available. Scott will have some Anthrax stuff and I’m out with Daniel Lanois (Canadian rocker) but hopefully we will all be back and ready to rock at that point.
Classic Rock and Metal Hammer in the UK have been very supportive of the music and that press will come out which should help keep it out there. I’ve always been a great fan of British rock so I delighted that we are getting some good press. From Deep Purple to Slade the British bands have always been my favourite. I’ve always written songs in a more British style than American like Mother Superior and you can tell them influence of bands like UFO and even The Kinks. Listen to “Get That Girl” and you’ll hear it.
Ok. Time for one final question. Scott Ian has done you the honour of setting in motion the re-recording and to some re-discovering of Mother Superior. If you could do the same for a band which would you choose?
Oh, that’s a great question man and I can honestly say I have never been asked that before. It’s a tough one.
Take a look at the record collection that surrounds you and what comes into your mind?
It would be amazing if I could go out on the road and play second guitar with Slade.
You wouldn’t have Noddy in it at the minute though!
I know, I could ask him to just sing half of the songs and I’ll do the rest!! That would be a dream. Perhaps another one, who are one of my favourite bands from the past twenty years, would be The Black Crowes. Very underrated and I would love to play second guitar with those guys. I love Luther Dickinson’s work but he wasn’t on the last tour and I reckon I could play some neat solos!!
Thanks very much for your time Jim, it’s been a pleasure talking with you.
Thanks Donnie. It’s been great. Talk to you again man.
Thanks must go to Jim for being a great interviewee and to Andy Turner at Metal Blade for arranging the interview.