MR. BIG guitarist Paul Gilbert will release his 16th solo studio album, "Werewolves Of Portland", on June 4 via The Players Club. The disc's second single, "A Thunderous Ovation Shook The Columns", can be streamed below.
Gilbert states: "I also wrote not one, but TWO songs about the Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich. One is 'A Thunderous Ovation Shook The Columns', which is a line that I saw when I was reading about the audience's reaction to the debut performance of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony. They liked his symphony! So, fortunately, did Joseph Stalin, who had made no secret that he did NOT approve of some of Shostakovich's earlier music, and that he'd better write something more pro-state, or be sent off to a 'work' camp in Siberia. In these days of culture battles, I thought, today's cancel-culture people still have nothing on Stalin."
With the international lockdown putting the world on hold, Gilbert decided to, rather than wait, he got on with playing all the instruments on the album himself. "It took me about six months to think of it, but it finally occurred to me that I could play all the instruments myself. I've always loved playing drums, and I can play bass and keyboards well enough to get the job done," he says.
Talking about the first song released from the album, he explains: "Most of my titles come from the lyrics that I write in order to get a melody going. I've even printed the lyrics in the liner notes of the album, so you can 'read along' as you listen to the music.
"'Argument About Pie' is one of my favorites. This lyric came from my pre-lockdown experiences of stopping by my local pie shop for a slice of strawberry rhubarb. Amidst all the brewing angst in Portland, the pie shop was a place where everyone was happy and at peace. Eating pie seemed to be something that everyone could agree on. Since my mind has the habit of searching for contrasts, I started to wonder what people might be against eating pie."
Recorded at Opal Studio in Portland with co-producer and engineer Kevin Hahn, "Werewolves Of Portland" saw Gilbert pulling out some of his current favorite guitars for the job. "I mostly used my Ibanez Fireman guitars," he says. "I've been collecting vintage Ibanez guitars lately, too. I brought some models from the '70s, '80s, and '90s like the Ibanez Artist, Roadstar II and Ghostrider. I also brought and modified a '60s Epiphone Olympic. I used to play those in the early days of RACER X, so it was fun to have a guitar that reminded me of my early shredder style."
The album title's inspiration partly comes from the Warren Zevon song "Werewolves Of London". "I live in Portland and thought it would be funny to substitute the name of my much lesser-known city," Paul says. "My original idea for the 'Werewolves' was just the guys in my band and me. When we play music, it is our version of 'howling at the moon'. Unfortunately, Portland has become more 'known' in the last year for events that are pretty sad to watch. And 'Werewolves' could take on other meanings that I certainly hadn't anticipated. But the title, to me, still has a musical meaning."
Gilbert is a formidable force. From his time in Los Angeles metallers RACER X to helping form MR. BIG, one of the era's most revered names, his distinguished solo career has seen him putting out 15 acclaimed records and guesting on albums from such diverse names as Todd Rundgren, BOWLING FOR SOUP, Glenn Hughes and MC Lars. He also toured with Joe Satriani and John Petrucci in 2007 ("G3") and two years later with Richie Kotzen and George Lynch ("Guitar Generation"). This is not to mention a lengthy tenure as a much-in-demand teacher and instructor. This began when he was still a teenager, being hired in 1985 by the prestigious Guitar Institute Of Technology (GIT) in Los Angeles.
"I didn't become a musician to shout my ideas, complaints, or philosophies at anyone," Paul says. "I love music because of the music. So I love my method of using my inner rants as scaffolding to build melodies. This scaffolding can then be pulled away to unveil some pure emotional music. This works perfectly for me and hopefully for my listeners.
"I need to be able to visualize the look and sound of my fretboard well enough to play accurately in my mind," he explains. "It's almost like real air guitar! Then when I actually go to play the music, I've got a good chance of having my melodic intentions come true. And that's about the best feeling in the world."
"Werewolves Of Portland" track listing:
01. Hello North Dakota!
02. My Goodness
03. Werewolves Of Portland
04. Professorship At The Leningrad Conservatory
05. Argument About Pie
07. I Wanna Cry (Even Though I Ain't Sad)
08. A Thunderous Ovation Shook The Columns
09. Problem-Solving People
10. (You Would Not Be Able To Handle) What I Handle Every Day
Photo by Jason Quigley