2013 is a good year for Ronnie Wood. He’s just turned 66 – “I’m really lucky to have survived everything I put myself through,” he admits. Plus, The Rolling Stones play the Glastonbury festival for the first time ever on June 29. Wood was key in persuading his fellow Stones that “we must do this.”
When you’re in a band with Keith Richards, you’ll always be “the other guitarist.” It wasn’t long ago that the other Stones referred to Wood as “the new boy” (he joined in 1975!)
But “Woodie” has his own unique skills, wit, wisdom and plenty of stories…
On playing bass for Jeff Beck in The Jeff Beck Group
“Some people thought, ‘Oh, you can’t go to bass, it’s an inferior instrument if you’re a guitarist,” he told Guitar Player. “But it’s the other way around. I’m really glad I had that training on bass, because when I went back to guitar I had a whole new viewpoint.”
On his straight guitar-to-amp tone
“Effects are not that stunning unless you’re a master of them,” Wood told Guitar Player. “The wah-wah pedal sickens me unless it’s played by Clapton, Page, Beck, Hendrix, or Zappa maybe.” He also told Premier Guitar, “[U2‘s] Edge said to me, ‘How do you get that tone?’ And I said, “Just turning it up to 10 and hitting the full volume.” I don’t use effects… very rarely. And he’s Mr. Effects, and he can’t understand how to do it.”
On how he influenced Slash
Speaking on his new Absolute Classic Rock radio show in 2010, Wood said, “Slash, I remember him as a kid spying on me when I was playing guitar, and I’d teach him little licks.” Wood also added he’s learned licks off Slash. “It’s really good. He’s a great guy to play with, and he’s great at interacting, a good weaver, you know. We can weave, like me and Bobby Womack do, and me and Keith Richards do.”
Here’s Ronnie and Keith jamming and weaving those guitars backstage on Gibson jazzboxes.
On working with Billy Gibbons, another guest on Wood’s album I Feel Like Playing (2010) on the track “Thing About You”
“I’m very chameleon-like,” Wood told Vintage Guitar. “It’s me sounding like Billy Gibbons, and him sounding like me. We’re weaving together in the solos, so that quite honestly I don’t know where I start and leave off, where Billy takes over, and vice versa. It’s nice to know it’s not cut-and-dried, like he’s doing this bit and I’m doing that bit.
“Weaving is something I’ve been doing with Keith Richards since we started playing together. It’s an ancient musical form where we just ‘talk’ to each other through our guitars.”
On the difference between The Stones and his own solo records
Wood told Premier Guitar, “On a Stones album, for a start, you have to get it passed by ‘the board.’ Jagger and Richards don’t accept a suggestion very easily, because they’ve already got it sewn up. So you’ve got to have a pretty good song to get it by the board - which I respect.”
On briefly sharing an apartment with Jimi Hendrix in 1967
“Jimi was quite a gentle flatmate,” Wood told Shortlist. “He gave me a dog - a basset hound called Loopy. We were living with Pat Arnold, who was the singer in The Ikettes, but she threw me and Jimi out because the dog kept sh*tting everywhere. Jimi said, ‘I’m going back on tour, Ronnie. Will you take my dog?’ I had a little house in Kingston [west of London] at the time, so I took her with me. Lovely dog, I’d completely forgotten Jimi gave her to me.
“Neither of us were there long enough. But we did used to sit on the bed and exchange ideas on the guitar. Jimi could flip it over and play left or right-handed equally well.”
On working with Rod Stewart, in the Jeff Beck Group, The Faces and solo…
“It’s not easy playing with Rod,” Wood told Guitar Player. “But he just makes you feel good - as long as you’re playing in the pocket.” Here’s Woodie and Rod on MTV Unplugged” - in the pocket” playing from Ronnie included.
On whether he’s read Keith Richards’ autobiography Life.
“We don’t do each other’s books in The Stones,” Wood told Shortlist. “When mine was published, no one said, ‘You’ve got a great book Ronnie, I read it.’ Nobody even bothered to mention I had one out. I have got Keith’s, he gave me a signed copy. It’s a bit of an undertaking though, isn’t it? I’ve looked at the pictures.”
On working with fellow “madmen” Chuck Berry and Keith Richards
Also on his Absolute Radio show, “Honest Ron” said, “I have many a story about Chuck, especially when I lived in New York. I used to play with him quite a lot, and he’d always have to have the money up front in his guitar case and he’d leap straight from the stage with the guitar case full of money, throw it offstage and into the cab.
“Once, Keith was there in the audience and Chuck came off stage and Keith ran up behind him, tapped him on the shoulder, at which Chuck turned round and went whack and smashed Keith in the eye, gave him a big black eye. Keith said ‘What you do that for? I was only trying to say hello, Chuck!’”
On his dual devotion of painting…
“I always looked up to my brothers Art and Ted, both musicians and painters themselves,” Wood told Uncut. “There wasn’t one moment where music took over. In my life and forever, art and music have been intertwined. The others [Stones] have always supported me in what I do. It’s part of me and always has been. I’ve been nicknamed ‘Ronnie Rembrandt,’ an incredible compliment.” Learn more about Wood’s art at ronniewood.com.
On keeping playing
“I just love to keep playing. Y’know, keeping my fingers hard at the end - otherwise, you give it a few months and they start to go soft. It’s no good. You’ve got to keep working. Keep painting and keep playing.”