Charlie Waats 4
Date: July 8, 2008 01:16
"That's the way I am"
Interview of Charlie Watts by Phillipe ManoeuvreRock and Folk, september 94
Charlie Watts : How is it going Philippe, were they [the other Stones, previously interviewed] ok ?
Phillipe Manoeuvre : Very good Charlie, but one of them is missing.
Charlie Watts : Which one ?
Phillipe Manoeuvre : Well, you !
Phillipe Manoeuvre : I've heard that you have a hobby, when you are on tour I mean.
Charlie Watts : Yes, yes, that's right. It's a kind of therapy. I draw every bed in which I sleep. It's something I began a long time ago, it gives you something to do in an hotel room, you know. I have been doing it for years... I have books of drawings now !
Phillipe Manoeuvre : But how many drawings does that make ? There must be thousands of them !
Charlie Watts : I don't know, I really don't know. But it makes a pile of books, of sketch books.
Phillipe Manoeuvre : You did a book on Charlie Parker, you could make a book with your drawings.
Charlie Watts : Uhm... Yes, but it would be less interresting than Charlie Parker I think.
Phillipe Manoeuvre : What did you feel when your old pal, Billy Wyman, said he left the band ?
Charlie Watts : Well, I felt very sad, really. I miss him, not on stage but I miss him socially speaking. I always liked Billy a lot and... But the times are changing and I can understand why he wanted to go, he has had enought of it. Darryl...
Phillipe Manoeuvre : Keith says that it is you who had the responsability of the final choice...
Charlie Watts : Well, yes, you can say that. As a matter of fact, we tried 20 bass players and finally 2 of them were left. It was Darryl or this other guy, Douggie Wimbish. And Douggie had plenty of work. Darryl works on the rythmic, Doug was more "on top" as I say. They are both great guys but for me Darryl was more appropriated.
Phillipe Manoeuvre : Is it going to change the Stones' sound ?
Charlie Watts : For the better I hope, but you would like us to change our sound ?
Phillipe Manoeuvre : NO !
Charlie Watts : If we changed it, there would be a public outcry.
Phillipe Manoeuvre : All these years with the Stones and you never did one single solo...
Charlie Watts : Thanks God for that ! I never missed it. I don't like drums solo, I did 2 of them in my whole career. Once when I was a young man, in a pub. The other very recently, in Los Angeles, in a jazz club.
Phillipe Manoeuvre : But, it seems natural for a drummer to display his technical talents...
Charlie Watts : Yes, but not me. I prefer group drummers. Buddy Rich, but not in solo, in rythmic. As accompanist. Talk about Freddie Below...
Phillipe Manoeuvre : On Voodoo Longe, the drums are really put forward.
Charlie Watts : Really ? You know, i don't ask for anything, it's the engineer who does that, or Don Was.
Phillipe Manoeuvre : But you like this new record ?
Charlie Watts : Yes... Oh yes ! I haven't listened to all of it yet. I like to listen to them in studio, loud. As soon as they are mixed, I run away. It seems to last for ages.
Phillipe Manoeuvre : Charlie, you have a house in France, you've been living a lot there. What do you like and dislike about the French ?
Charlie Watts : What I like ? ... hum ... It looks like French have understood life. My life in France, it's beautiful, it's in the Cevennes, wonderful ! Very nice. I like the sun over there. My daughter grew up there, she went to school...
What I dislike? ... hum ... Parisian taxi drivers ! But i don't like British taxi drivers either.
Phillipe Manoeuvre : You talked about your daughter. Would you let her marry a Gun'n Roses ?
Charlie Watts : Euh... I don't think I can prevent her from doing anything anyway. Euh... A Gun... It's all very Victorian, isn't it ?
Phillipe Manoeuvre : How does Charlie Watts get ready for a long Stones' tour ?
Charlie Watts : Charlie Watts worries. Yes, indeed ! I hope the show will be good. Until it begins, adrenaline, stage-fright. Personnaly, I already feel dreadfully anxious when I play in a club in front of 10 people, so... I am afraid. For me. That's the way I am.
A chat with the "forgotten stones"
by Jim Derogatis, pop music critic
September 21, 1997
According to Rolling Stones lore, the band was first asked if its current tour would be its last way back in 1966. Then as now, primary spokesmen Mick Jagger and Keith Richards laughed off the query with a series of stock joke answers, usually having something to do with Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf playing until they fell over.
The fabulous Glimmer Twins are almost always on autopilot during interviews. It's impossible to surprise them with a question that they haven't heard before, and they never surprise us with a fresh answer.
With that in mind, I thought it would be much more interesting to check in with the "forgotten Stones", drummer Charlie Watts and second guitarist Ron Wood, when they were rehearsing in Toronto prior to the tour kickoff at Soldier Field.
Of course, I've been wrong before.
JD : Let me start by asking about the stage for this tour: Everybody always wants to know if it's going to be bigger and better than the last time.
Wood : It's going to be big, but that's about as far as I'm going to go. I haven't seen it, actually. We have models but ... Well, it's big.
JD : Charlie, you're 56 years old. Do you do anything to stay in shape in order to put out such energy in a stadium for two hours every night ?
Watts : I try to, but you never know if you're in shape until you do a few shows. You can never practice for a live show because you put so much extra into it when you're doing it. You just hope you've kept yourself together enough. It's toughest for the drums and Mick, us two. If you're playing the guitar, it's not so much a physical thing.
JD : How did you feel about using drums loops on Bridges to Babylon ?
Watts : I enjoyed it because I've never done it before. It's interesting, but I wouldn't want to do it every day of the week. It has nothing to do with drumming; it's a production thing. John and Michael [the Dust Brothers] are very nice guys, but it's computers and endlessly messing about with little bits of tape. Let's be honest: It's boring, if you're a drummer like me.
JD : Despite the hype about loops and samples, Bridges to Babylon still sounds like a generic Stones album.
Watts : Well, it should ! Now, if it was my album, it would have been different. It would have been even more mashed-up then it was. But you can't do that : It's a Rolling Stones album. If we'd have done that, we'd have been accused of not being the Rolling Stones, and no one would have liked that. People would ask, "Where are the old Stones ?"
JD : Charlie, do you have any perspective on the Stones' recorded legacy? I mean, do you think the new album stands up compared to Beggars Banquet or Exile on Main Street ?
Watts : I never listen to them. I haven't heard this one, really. I sit down, I enjoy playing in the studio, and then it's gone for me. I don't sit and analyze them. I'm only aware of what's on Beggars Banquet when we go through to find bits and pieces from each era to include in the show. But I never play it. My wife plays the records. When they come on, I just say, "Oh, that one."
JD : Ron, what about you? You came into the story halfway through, and you were a Stones fan before you were actually a Stone.
Wood : Funny enough, I think this new album ranks as one of the highest since their first albums. I think it ranks along with Exile.
JD : Wow, that's quite a limb to climb out on.
Wood : Well, Beggars Banquet then. That's a pretty good one! [Laughs.] You know, the way the Stones' songs are, they take a while to settle in. They take time. This is shooting into the wind here a bit, but I do get the gut feeling that this one is that good.
JD : Keith and Mick told me in 1994 that they thought Voodoo Lounge was one of the best Stones albums ever, but they've apparently changed their minds : They recently told Rolling Stone magazine that they never wanted to make an album like that again! I know I never play Voodoo Lounge anymore, do you ?
Wood : No. [Laughs.] But I would play Bridges to Babylon
JD : But is that because it's good or just because it's new ? You know, that business about albums taking a while to settle in works both ways: You could decide the new album is a stinker after living with it for a while.
Wood : Well, there you go, maybe you're right! [Laughs.]
JD : Charlie, do you think it's fair for us rock critics to listen to the new albums and compare them to the old ones ?
Watts : I think so. That's what I'd do if I was comparing a Duke Ellington album from 1961 to one from 1941. But it's not fair to the Duke Ellington band in 1961. It's silly for you to go on about something from the past when something else is going on in the present. We've never stopped going on, even though some people think we're stuck in the mud. It's quite hard to please a lot of people, but that's the position we're in.
JD : In concert, you're playing mostly old material. What would happen if you went out and said, "We're only going to play new Stones songs" ?
Watts : People would come, but we wouldn't be playing in Soldier Field. We'd get 10,000 people who really enjoyed it, and 30,000 would say, "Why didn't they play this one ?" Even now they're going to say that. You, Jim DeRogatis, are going to say, "Why didn't they play this one ?" And even if we played that one, you'd say, "Well, why didn't they do this one ?"
Wood : We've got a lot of good stuff happening in the rehearsals. With the huge amount of songs that we have to choose from, it's still quite a handful to remember the chords and the sequences, especially on songs like "Sister Morphine" that we haven't done live. We're doing lots that we haven't done live before.
Watts Duke Ellington played the same songs for 50 years. Now, we don't do that; there are a lot of songs we choose from. If we play a set to you tonight, you can say, "That's all their old hits". Then we can play a completely different set a week later, and you can still say, "That's all their old hits". That's because there are a lot of songs that people like.
JD : But how many times can you play Honky Tonk Women ? Does it still meananything to you ?
Wood : Well, there's not a lot in it for it to mean! It's just a groove, isn't it?
JD : Yeah, I know, it's only rock 'n' roll, but you like it. Let me ask about the corporate sponsorship: This time it's Sprint. Do you really need their money ?
Watts : The tour needs the money.
JD : But the Voodoo Lounge tour reportedly grossed $350 million.
Watts : No! You write for newspapers; surely you don't believe everything you read in the newspapers ?
JD : No, but I don't believe you need Sprint's money, either.
Watts : Of course we do. We need Sprint to put ads on TV. We need to sell tickets. If we only sell 80 percent of our tickets, it's a flop. We have to sell up to 90 percent. You should really talk to Mick about this, because I get bored with it. But the standard we've set - you people in the press would love it if the stadiums were only 75 percent full. So we go for 90 percent, and we need all the help we can get.
Wood : Do you honestly care whether the Rolling Stones have Sprint on their ticket or Nike ? Do you really ?
JD : Yes. It seems awfully tacky for the world's greatest rock 'n' roll band to be out there shilling for some company like Sprint or Jovan.
Watts : Well, it's not like we work for them.
JD : How about the other big controversy: You had to give K.D. Lang songwriting credit on Anybody Seen My Baby because it sounds so much like Constant Craving.
Watts : I don't know anything about that. I met K.D. Lang, though, and she's a very nice girl.
JD : Ron, while the Stones are playing in Chicago, you're also having a show of your paintings [now on view at the Solomon & Solomon Gallery, 70 E. Oak].
Wood : I am? Oh, great! It's news to me!
JD : Say, just between us, are you going to be doing a small-club show in Chicago ?
Wood : We hope so. I would like to do a little one in Chicago somewhere.
Watts : We just did one in Toronto, in this club where nobody was supposed to know it was us, and it was chaos. That's what happens when we play. We can't just go out and be a blues band, even though that's what we are.
JD : Blues Traveler is opening for you at Soldier Field, but later on in the tour, you're playing with Chicago's own Smashing Pumpkins. Any thoughts on them ?
Watts : Are they from Chicago ? I like them.
Wood : The little I've heard of them, I like. But it's just a couple of things on the TV.
JD : There's another Chicago connection, courtesy of Darryl Jones on bass. He grew up on the South Side and studied at the Chicago Vocational High School.
Watts : We've been playing together for quite a long while now. He's a wonderful bass player, but he's also a very nice young man. The thing about asking people to work with you is that you have to live with these people on the road. Darryl is a very nice man, and that's important. He's also a very good musician. He probably only uses half of his facilities with us.
JD : When the Stones gear up to tour these days, does anyone even bother to call Bill Wyman to see if he wants to come back ?
Watts : I talked to him the day before yesterday, but he gave it up. He got to a point in his life and gave it up. We'll all do that. I'll do that some day.
JD : Charlie, the last time I talked to you, you said you'd never do that.
Watts : Oh, I will, I'm sure. I don't think I'll ever stop playing, but I'll certainly stop touring. It's nerve-racking.
JD : Sorry, but I can't resist: Is this the last time ?
Watts : When we were first asked that in 1966, I said it would be the last time. But I'm usually wrong.
Wood : We will carry on until we're old men like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
JD : But will you be able to carry on at Soldier Field ?
Wood : Soldier Infirmary Field, maybe! [Laughs.] We'll have to cross that bridge when we can't walk anymore. But I don't see why we can't carry on playing places like Soldier Field forever.
"I hated the 60s and 70s"
By Frederic LecomteTelerama, December 2, 1998
(snip short intro)
FL : For the last 10 years, you are the one who gets the biggest ovations each time Mick Jagger introduces the Stones members on stage. How do you explain this popularity ?
CW : It is because of the way Mick introduces me, isn't it ? (laughs) These ovations are a huge compliment, but I certainly won't try to explain this popularity. When you start thinking about those things, you get crazy.
FL : No Security is distinct from other live albums, as it includes some songs for the first time in a live version.
CW : So ? Mick and Keith wrote about five or six hundred songs since the Stones started. We naturally draw on this vast repertoire. In a concert, there is always a list of songs the audience always ask for. If you go to a Ringo Starr's concert, you inevitably wish to hear him sing Yellow Submarine... That being said, we regularly try to play songs we rarely play. Hence the presence of Sister Morphine, Memory Motel, or The Last Time.
FL : How would you define your position inside the Rolling Stones ?
CW :[long silence] My position ? Like any drummer : to settle the rythm, to keep musical cohesion between each instrument, and to provide a platform for the others.
FL : Many people consider you as the eminence grise of the group, the "wise" stone...
CW : Wide, I don't believe. Better say upright. But I never look at myself, and refuse to analyze the way people receive me. It has no importance.
FL : What is your relation with two personalities as strong as Mick Jagger and Keith Richards ?
CW : No one is closer to me, and I hope this feeling is mutual. Their personalities are what they are. You must live inside their spheres, follow their directions.
FL : Do you like tours as much as you did 20 or 30 years ago ?
CW : I am unable to remember anything in the 60s or the 70s ! All those years spent on the road finally form a long and unique show. From our last tour, I remember only a never-ending line of suitcases and a crowd of people telling me all the time where I have to go and what I have to do.
FL : And your very first concert with the Rolling Stones, at the Flamingo Jazz Club in London, on 01/14/63 ?
CW : No memory at all, except that I had played in this place before I was with the Rolling StoneS. To remember vaguely some event from the past, Keith, or formerly Bill Wyman, had to tell me about it. On the other hand, I remember very well our first english tour, in 1963, in cinemas and small theaters, when we shared the bill with the Everly Brothers, Bo Diddley and Little Richard. It was wonderful.
FL : For thirty years, you combined your drumming with Bill Wyman's bass. Did his leaving in 1993 change the rythm pattern of the group ?
CW : I miss him terribly, even if we are still in touch by phone. But on stage, Darryl Jones is such a gifted musician, and such a kind person that it is very easy for me to play and tour with him. If we had nowadays a bassist with a too strong personality, it would be unbearable. On tour, you have to share each moment, 24 hours a day, to give a 2 hours show. And about determining if Darryl Jones is a better or worse bassist than Bill Wyman is to me a stupid issue. Each of duke Ellington's Orchestra lineup was unique and magic, but no individual musician was irreplaceable. The Rolling Stones are Mick and Keith. The strength and the essence of the group depend on their happiness and their longevity. It doesn't matter who plays bass or drums with them : as long as they will be together, the Stones will exist.
FL : What is the drums part you are the most proud of ?
CW : Maybe Not Fade Away, on the Stripped album. But it is hard to say, because I never listen to the Rolling Stones albums.
FL : In his book, Stone Alone, Bill Wyman says you are the only one in the group who never took any drugs in the 60s and who always remained faith full to your wife. What did motivate this attitude ?
CW : Having always loved my wife, unconditionally ! Actually, I hated the 60s and the 70s. I found the music awful in this era, and even if I was in the heart of the action, I never saw a revolution. Only the birth of my daughter made me happy. All these little girls screaming during our concerts, and the "sex, drugs and rock 'n roll" supposed way of life always seemed ridiculous and unhealthy to me. About dope, I caught back during the 80s, taking tons of powder. I was the first one surprised, my wife did not understand, but the most amazed was Keith Richards ! I had no taste for anything anymore, I was dispising myself. I had gone adrift at more than 40...
FL : Had you imagined having such a long career in music ?
CW : Not at all. Before being in the Stones, I used to back different artists as oportunities happened. In the very early 60s, Alexis Korner had asked me to play drums in the Blues Incorporated. Meeting him was determining : that day I joined my first group and met my wife ! Alexis was a true catalyst, habing a sixth sense for tracking down exceptional musicians, like Jack Bruce, for example, incredibly gifted bassist, singer, and composer. At that time, I had never heard the sound of a harmonica, and for me, Blues was when Charlie Parker was sad. And at that moment, Cyril Davies, a singer and harmonics', arrives from Chicago and gets in the group. I had no idea about what was happening... The whole English musical scene was exploding thanks to Alexis Korner's visions. That was when a little guy left his Cheltenham countryside, a guitar under one arm and a bootleneck on a finger. His name is Brian jones and the first thing he does when he arrives in London going to see the Blues Incorporated in concert. This is how I met him. Around Alexis also was a guy named Mick Jagger, who sometimes climbed onstage to sing a song while his pal Keith Richards was watching...
FL : You say you don't like rock'n'roll, never listen to the Stones records... wouldn't you have prefered remaining an advertising designer ?
CW : No ! I always wanted to be a drummer, but I was convinced I would never be able to. My dream was to become Kenny Clarke and to play for the great masters of Jazz. But that's a different kettle of fish ! When I was 17, in 1958, I went to Paris to see my idol play with Bud Powell, a piano genius, and Pierre Michelot, a bassist who had played with Django Rheinhardt. This world was my universe, and I loved these musicians. In the Paris of the 1950s, jazz was not alusic reserved for black people, as it was in the USA, and this is why your capital was at that time the ultimate place for jazz musicians. I remember a very romantic ambiance, I remember meeting Kenny Clarke in St Germain des Pres, a flamboyant man who lived a true romance with Paris. Myself, I had the feeling to live in a Fred Astaire film.
FL : The Rolling Stones played blues, rock, rythm'n'blues, soul music, disco, reggae, but never any jazz. Did you ever suggest to try it ?
CW : No, I just advised Mick to invite Joshua Redman to come to play on Waiting On A Friend during our last tour. I also suggested to invite Miles Davis on some of our song, but unfortunately, it didn't happen... The only jazz musician Mick invited on his own idea was Sonny Rollins, during the studio session, in Paris, for Waiting On A Friend, in 1980. Sincerely, I didn't think Rollins would accept. But he did it, and what's best, he loved it ! It had been enchanting to be able to play with the one who I think is the last giant of saxophone. As a simple listener, I always prefered Sonny Rollins to John Coltrane, whose success did shade many sax players.
FL : After always playing in gigantic places like the Stade de France, don't you sometimes have the impression to be more of a funfair beast in a giant rock"n"roll circus ?
CW : I feel more like a little mouse. It is a big show, and my most important part is to make so that Keith gets his share of applause. And those giant stadiums really are not made for music. All this, after all, is just comedy.