Mr. Big : "We’re musicians. So the songs just come from the emotions that we feel in our lives"

Jeudi 15 Septembre 2011

Interview with Mr. Big's guitarist Paul Gilbert before the European tour of the band. This is the original version of the interview published in French by Yuzu Melodies, a website dedicated to pop music.

Mr. Big : "We’re musicians. So the songs just come from the emotions that we feel in our lives"
I remember the MTV images of rock’n’roll bands in the 80s and 90s. It looked like an endless party with gorgeous girls, alcohol, and not much work… How does life look like when you are in a rock’n’roll band?
Well, that’s certainly what I was hoping for. But I always loved music so much that I ended up working much harder on improving my guitar playing. I remember rehearsing with my teenage cover bands, and when we would take a break, the other guys would go into another room and drink beers. I’d stay in the rehearsal room and keep playing guitar. In the end, my relationship with music and my guitar is so important to me. It’s giving me so much happiness in my life. The other things just sort of faded away, but I still have a strong passion for guitar. It will never end!

Mr Big is a real rock’n’roll band but it's famous for its pop songs. Was it important for the band to have these two sides (pop and rock)?
Mr. Big plays songs that are loud and soft, and fast and slow, and minor and major, and probably many other categories that we could think up. Our motivation for this isn’t complicated. We just play and write what we feel. If we chose one narrow style, the record companies would probably be very happy because we’d be easier to market. But we’re not marketers. We’re musicians. So the songs just come from the emotions that we feel in our lives.

Your most famous track « To Be with You » sounds like a very spontaneous song. Was it the kind of song that came to you easily and was written in 20 minutes?
“To Be With You” was written by Eric. He actually wrote it before Mr. Big was formed. Eric played a demo of “To Be With You” for me one day, and I couldn’t forget the song. I asked him to make me a copy of it, just so I could listen to it. I ended up putting it at the end of some rehearsal tapes that I made for the band, and when Billy and Pat heard it, they immediately loved the song.

Mr Big is one of the few classic American rock bands of the nineties that survived the grunge wave. What is your secret?
I left the band for thirteen years! Ha ha! Seriously, all we know how to do is to write and play music. We have no control on how people respond to it, and we have no control over trends. That’s why we just concentrate on our records and on our shows and forget the rest.

I’ve been in Japan several times and I discovered that you were very popular in this country. How do you explain your appeal there, and do you love to go to Japan?
We’ve had some great concerts in Japan. It’s a great feeling to sell out the Budokan arena! But we’ve had great success in many other places too. Our biggest shows have been in Indonesia and Brazil. We also just finished a great tour in the USA, and Europe is always good to us.

You have released 9 live albums in 20 years. Does it mean that Mr Big is one of those bands that are better experienced live than in a studio?
We don’t want the two things to be very different. When we do a studio album, we want it to have the excitement and energy of a live show. The main difference is that we have a much smaller audience in the studio… just our producer and engineer!

There is a pig with wings on the cover of « What If », your latest album. Is that a reference to how you regarded the odds for a reunion of Mr. Big's original line-up?
Exactly. I can’t talk for the other guys, but for myself, I really needed a break after our first eight years together. But as time went by, my good memories of those days stayed with me, and I missed the band and the music. I feel very fortunate to have a second chance to play guitar in Mr. Big.

« What If » sounds great, and it's a very high energy album. Do you think that the break up and the solo projects of the different members of the band had a positive effect on Mr Big’s music?
There’s really no way to compare. Mostly, I’m very happy with how things have happened. I’m glad I had the chance to try doing solo albums on my own. And I’m glad to have the chance to play with Mr. Big again. I’ll probably do more of both in the future. I’m always grateful that I can live my dream and play guitar every day for a living. It’s an awesome job!

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