Keith Richards: "My grandchildren don't care who I am, for them I am their grandfather"
The guitarist spoke with Clarín for the reissue of "Talk Is Cheap", his first solo album and don't deny that the Rolling Stones may return to Argentina. And he tells how his family life is, without the vanities of a rockstar.
Victoria Will/Invision/AP)By Eduardo Slusarczuk
"Eduardo ... Olé, olé olé olé ..." The raspy voice that asks and sings in the best argentinian style through the telephone sounds unmistakable. But as if it were necessary, the man who dreamed the riff of Satisfaction and invented the riff of Jumpin 'Jack Flash , the one who sniffed the ashes of his father, the one who turned his body into a laboratory and survived to tell it, the one that after 56 years on the road continues to rock with the same enthusiasm as the first day every time he comes on stage with The Rolling Stones, he introduces himself: "Hey, I'm Keith!".
The musician calls from the "icy Connecticut", where he adjusts the details of the 30th Anniversary re-release of his first solo album, Talk Is Cheap, scheduled for March 29, and while he awaits the beginning of the North American section of the No Filter tour with the Stones - starting April 20 in Miami - in an area where he combines and balances his family and work taste.
"I make a mixture of both, I play with my grandchildren, I make a family life ... But when I feel my family fills my nerves, I go into the living room and write music or play," he says, and throws the first of the many laughter that will fire throughout half an hour of a talk in which Keith Richards exhibits a humanity that takes him completely away from the vagaries of a rockstar.- Playing the guitar is part of your daily routine?
-No, I do not practice too much. I guess I should do it, but no. There are moments, some periods, in which I grab it and play for a few good times. And then, I abandon it. Sometimes it is more 'refreshing' when you leave it for a while.- What do you play in that intimacy?
-I do not know, everything. I play some country songs, some piece by Andrés Segovia -I know some of that- (laughter). I only play, and when after a while I find some song idea, I start to develop it. The rest is to follow that idea.
Childhood friends in their native Dartford, Richards sealed in 1961 a musical partnership with Mick Jagger that is maintained until today. However, it was precisely a short circuit in that relationship that in 1988 led the guitarist to become a solo artist, while the singer preferred to go out and show his own solo records instead of defending the poor Dirty Work, recorded in 1986 by the Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World. That was the origin of Talk Is Cheap, which Richards now remembers avoiding putting the focus on his lifetime brother.
"For me, doing something alone had never been in my dreams. I had The Rolling Stones, I had my group, I wrote songs for Mick to sing, I had never been struck by the idea of doing something on the outside. A great band throughout life is enough, that's what I thought. (laughter) But circumstances led to Steve Jordan and I first agreeing to produce a version of Jumpin' Jack Flash for Aretha Franklin, and then the movie with Chuck Berry (Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll). By the time we finished, I was flying over the idea that we had to do something else, but the question was with whom", says Richards.
The selection included guitarist Waddy Wachtel - "I saw him a few weeks ago in Los Angeles," he says -, bassist Charley Drayton, "almost" Stone Bobby Keys on sax and keyboardist Ivan Neville, among other musicians who formed from then, The X-Pensive Winos. And the result of joining that band was an album with some really memorable songs, like Big Enough, Take It So Hard and Make No Mistake.
"It was all perfect," says Keith, who admits that he had to be taken almost by force to the studio, but at a distance he rescues this chapter of his life with special consideration: "The album is part of my heart. I love it, because I always wanted to make music and songs that transcended the times, and Talk Is Cheap did it ".-What was the biggest obstacle that you had to overcome when doing it? Did you feel the pressure to do something up to The Rolling Stones?
- No, I don't. I never felt there was a competition with myself, considering everything I had written with Mick. What happened instead was that I found that I could make songs that I could interpret myself and that I would not give them to Mick. Until then I had written according to his parameters, and suddenly I felt a sense of freedom. It was like I could let the song fly. Working with the Winos was something incredible.- Many of those songs, especially You Do not Move Me, and even the title track, were like shots aimed at Mick. Did he ever tell you something about it?
- Not specifically about those songs. But I think he got the message (laughter). But I have to admit that when I was writing them I was not thinking about someone in particular. It was not about Mick, it was not about anyone in particular ... Later, listening to them, I did find out who I was targeting. (laughter)- The reissue includes six unreleased tracks (one of them is My Babe , published a couple of weeks ago, and Big Town Playboy , which has just been released on digital platforms). Why were they left out at that time?
- I don't know. You can point and shoot me, I won't be able to answer you because I don't know why I did it. Maybe because Steve and I, and also the Winos, we thought we should publish only original songs and not record any cover. That may be the reason. But I'm happy that now they come to light, because it was a great session, with Johnny Johnson, Mick Taylor, Joey Spampinato... For me it's weird; It wasn't my idea to reissue it, but the record company proposed it. But when I made this album I always had in mind that I would have a second life. And here it is.- Are there more material from those sessions or from the following album, Main Offender ?
- It may be ... (laughter) I always wonder if there is anything else. The truth is that when you finish a recording, you begin to think about what is coming next and you forget what is left behind, and sometimes there are very good things. Now I try to be more careful with that ...- Ok, let's pretend that you are that Keith of 46 years old, looking at this Keith with 75. What do you think he would think, what do you think he would say about you?
-I don't know. The fact is that there is only one Keith. I would have to shave it ...- Now that Talk Is Cheap is brought to the present days, did you think about reagrouping the Winos once again for an anniversary concert or something?
- Everything is possible. There are no plans for now, but I am always in contact with them. I never thought that Talk Is Cheap would come back to light and it happened ... And I know that if it was a question of putting something together with them, they would be ready. Maybe later this year, maybe next...- Throughout your career you recorded with many of your musical heroes, like Johnnie Johnson, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry himself. Could you name three artists that you would still like to work with?
- It's very difficult. If there are three, there are a hundred. I can't answer that. I love working with anyone. Honestly, if I had to say who I'd like to work with now, I'll choose X-Pensive Winos.- Do you have material to record with them? You are currently working with the Stones on a new album. How do you decide for whom is each song?
- In some cases it's obvious, or sometimes they just show up in the study. Many songs that I wrote were intended for Mick, but not all of them worked. The reason why Happy did it is because he couldn't sing it. 'Hey, I can't do it, so you do it.' Yes I have to say that Take It So Hard was actually written for the Stones. I had it written before the idea of the Winos even existed.- In more or less a month, the Stones begin to tour again. Have you ever discussed the idea of including some of your solo material in the band's repertoire?
- Eduardo…! (laughter) No. The Stones are the Stones... Personally, I could sing Take It So Hard or something like that. But, at the same time, it is about what would be appropriate or not. We have a lead singer and his name is Mick Jagger.- Back to Talk Is Cheap, when you listen to that material, do you feel that you would like to change something?
- That feeling follows me from the moment I started making records. But when that happens I think that nothing has to be changed. Some part of me can say: "Hey, this part ..." No. What it is, it is. You have to leave it as it was done.- You said before that you make music so that it transcends the passing of time. As a musician, what do you think will be your main legacy? I could say that the passion you put into your music is an essential part.
-Eduardo ... Eduardo ... I would not deny what you say, and surely you would put it in words better than I could. But to me, I just want to convey that, whatever that is. And I guess it's a passion for music. And the great things that come out of it. It is in the hearts and soul of the people. It's all there; and music can help so much ...
With 75 years old, married since 1983 with Patti Hansen, father of a son and three daughters, Keith Richards is probably the most genuine example of somebody who can continue to be a rocker (and bluesman) while being a grandfather of five grandchildren and having a domestic life even after countless toxic experiences, marathons of sleepless nights - his record reaches nine nights - and a few more derangements.- A few years ago, you portrayed the great relationship you had with your grandfather in the book Gus & Me. Now that you are in that role, what do you most enjoy about your grandchildren?
- First of all, I learned that there is a great difference between being a father and being a grandfather ... Having become a grandfather gave me a feeling of continuity and family. After all, I've spent most of my life on the road, and when I'm with them ... My grandchildren do not give a damn if I'm Keith Richards. I can be anonymous: for them I am their grandfather. With them I can be a normal person. At that moment I am not looking for anything other than being there, and that revitalizes me.- In recent times, one of the news about you that reverberated most strongly was your decision to stop drinking and smoking ...
- Don't be so exaggerated! (laughs) Yes it's true that I don't drink like before, but I still have my wine, I occasionally drink a beer. And the same goes with the cigarettes. I'm trying…
- The question was whether that change in your family environment influenced your decision.
- I didn't think in those terms. What happens is like when I quit heroin. For me it was like saying: "Enough is enough, it was very good and maybe it lasted a little long, but that's it." The experiment ended.Are The Rolling Stones returning to Argentina?
The talk flies over that distant November 7, 1992, when by entering on the stage of the Velez Sarsfield stadium with the X-Pensive Winos, Keith Richards became the first Rolling Stone to play in our country, and the musician starts again to sing the "olé, olé olé olé" that he and his bandmates have engraved in their ears like a testimony of their days in Argentina.
A few months ago, Keith Richards recalled his first time in Argentina posting a photo on Twitter that portrays him with his bandmates from X-Pensive Winos in Buenos Aires. (Twitter)
And he talks without questions: "There is no other country in the world where you wake up with that music playing in the background, Argentina has always been a very warm country for us. The only thing I regret is haven't gone there before."- Was that first concert really a key to convince the band to come?
- Totally. After we left Buenos Aires, in my next contact with the Stones, the first thing I said was: "We have to play in Argentina, man, it's a place where we never were, and it's going to be incredible".- Would it be crazy to think that we'll see you again soon, with the Winos or with the Rolling Stones?
- Everything is possible. There are no reasons why The Rolling Stones can't play again in South America next year.