Interview: Gary Moore

Rob GarrattSix-string legend Gary Moore has been on the road for 40-years, playing with stars like Thin Lizzy and Mick Jagger. ROB GARRATT found out why he's Still Got The Blues.Further listening: Gary MooreFurther listening: Gary MooreRob Garratt

Six-string legend Gary Moore has been on the road for 40-years, playing with stars like Thin Lizzy and Mick Jagger. ROB GARRATT found out why he's Still Got The Blues.

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Gary Moore just can't beat the blues - first dabbling in the genre twenty years ago, the world-renowned player has been unable to turn his back on the beast.

The Irishman has been a guitar hero for four decades, hitting the road while still a teen and playing with rock legends Thin Lizzy as well as making a string of hard-rocking solo albums. But in 1990 a return to his roots saw a resurgence in his career, with the LP Still Got The Blues selling by the bucketload - introducing a new generation to the genre and helping Moore fill stadium tours for the last two decades.

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'I was playing blues when I was 14 in clubs in Belfast,' remembers Moore. 'By the end of the 80s I'd been playing rock for nine years and I thought I didn't belong there. I was always backstage before shows jamming the blues and my bass player said 'you should make a blues album, it'll probably be the best thing you ever did'.

'I thought that was the last thing anybody wanted, a Gary Moore blues album, but I did it anyway and it was the biggest thing I ever did - which was largely down to that one song Still Got The Blues that was a crossover success.

'I was playing songs that I was playing when I was 14 in big stadiums. It was nice to turn a whole new generation onto the songs I grew up with.'

The six-string legend has enjoyed a remarkable career, his technical prowess and distinctive playing winning him fans across the globe for the last four decades.

Admired by fellow players for his fiery blues runs, he is known as a remarkably gifted player, making his guitar wail and weep like a true virtuoso. But despite his ability Moore's is all passion - with blood, sweat and tears oozing out of every note he strikes, he is a firm supporter of translating emotion onto the fretboard.

'The most important thing is to find your own voice,' he says by way of advice. 'That takes a long time, it takes a few years to get there and we all start off copying our heroes. You have to put your own stamp and be original. The guitar is such an expressive instrument - it's very hands on, it's not like a piano where a hammer hits the key for you. It's very responsive to touch, you don't have to hit it too hard.'

Despite his love of the blues, Moore has kept an open mind throughout his career, gaining credits for collaborating with everyone from Ozzy Osbourne to Andrew Lloyd Webber.

'I have played with some great people,' he admits. 'Otis Rush, BB King, Albert King, Buddy Guy, George Harrison, Mick Jagger….I even played on a Beach Boys album! Who am I most proud of? Well Jack Bruce is very talented, I loved him in his Cream days. He's probably the most talented musician I have ever played with.'

Moore's most renowned collaboration though is his time with Thin Lizzy and their infamous frontman Phil Lynott.

The pair met one another in the late '60s when Moore joined Lynott in his pre-Lizzy project Skid Row, where they played together for a matter of months before Lynott went off to form Island's finest while Moore stayed to make two albums with Skid Row before turning solo.

In 1974 Moore temporarily joined Thin Lizzy in between solo albums, an association that was rekindled when he joined their ranks again in 1979 to play on their 1979 album Black Rose: A Rock Legend.

'I'll tell you how it started,' remembers Moore. 'He said 'meet me tomorrow at nine in morning' and I thought 'what? Nine in the morning - how rock and roll is that?'

'Then I went to meet him and we had a walk round Belfast and he took me to a Chinese restaurant and made me order something he knew I wouldn't like that meant he got to eat mine as well - and it didn't stop there - he always took what was mine, booze, women… but I loved him to bits. I still miss him today.

'Phil was a great catalyst for what was going on. If you felt uncomfortable abut what was going on you could always go round and he would trivialise it - I was worried about punk and he said 'that's just rock with safety pins'.

'We were hanging out with the guys from the Sex Pistols - I think Thin Lizzy were accepted by the punk community because we weren't so much older than then. Bands like Yes and Led Zeppelin were really shunned, they were seen as dinosaurs.'

But he denies he was part of the decadent rock and roll lifestyle the Irish rockers are known for.

'When I was in Thin Lizzy I was the straight guy. I was never into hard drugs or anything. When I was in America I would drink little bottles of Budweaiser - it was so watered down you could drink 20 of them. The rest of the band would be on vodka and cocaine and smack. I stayed away, I just wanted to be a good player. I showed up on time and they would be late and high. I was a bit mad the first time I was in the band in 1974, but I was only 21.'

The pair continued to collaborate on and off up until Lynott's death in 1986, while Moore continued to release underappreciated solo albums. But eventually Moore got sick of rock and went roots, putting out his first straight blues record in 1990. While he's careered off course a few times, the last two decades have seen him churning out album after album of acclaimed and successful blues. And it is his trademark blues that Moore will be playing at the UEA. As well as tracks from last year's Bad For You Baby, fans can expect to hear the classics Oh Pretty Woman, Still Got The Blues, Walking By Myself, All Your Love, and the 1979 single he recorded with Phil Lynott, Parisian Walkways.

Moore admits he's still got it bad for the blues. He added: 'I enjoy it. I can still do it. I love music. I've always been a musician first and foremost, not a pop star. I love playing the blues, it's a great form of expression for the guitar. I still just play along to albums by people like Otis Span.

'You're always learning. BB King is 83 and he's still learning. Although he did a farewell tour a few years ago and he's back again. I think he has a greedy manager. I don't have a manager, a lot of these managers are taking a lot for doing very little.'

t Gary Moore plays UEA on Sunday.


t Bottom E - Eric Clapton (w/ John Mayall)

A household name thanks to a string of pop-rock hits, Clapton helped bring the blues to Britain with his early work with the Yardbirds, John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Cream. Moore called him 'The first guitarist that taught me the blues.'

t A - Jeff Beck

Like Moore, Beck has enjoyed a prolific career, helping to define blues-rock with his early releases with Rob Stewart on vocals. Known as 'the guitarist's guitarist', he has produced decades of mainly instrumental rock music.

t D - Jimi Hendrix

Often cited as the most influential electrical guitarist who ever lived, in just four years Hendrix revolutionarinised rock, using feedback, wah and the tremolo bar in ways previously unconceived. He cut his chops in R&B bands and had a firm base in the blues.

t G - Peter Green

Green founded Fleetwood Mac in 1967, leading them to create a string of influential blues recordings before he quit in 1970, leaving the band to lurch towards MOR rock. He disappeared off the map after being diagnosed with Schizophrenia in the mid-70s, only to launch a comeback in the 90s.

t B - Django Reinhardt

French guitarist Reinhardt defined the genre of gypsy jazz with his work in the 30s and 40s. Best known for his work with St�phane Grappelli, he is a hugely influential figure to both jazz musicians and guitarists.

t High E - BB King

Arguably the best known blues player of all time, Memphis-born BB King has helped define the genre to generations with simple, elegant lead lines, charismatic vocal delivery and iconic compositions. Now in his 84th year, he continues to shine.

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