Q&A: Ronnie Wood

When the re-formed Faces played at the Royal Albert Hall were you hoping Rod Stewart might put in an appearance?

The Faces got together last year to rehearse ahead of touring. Why did you abandon the project?

It’s a shame about management, is all I can say. We didn’t decide not to go on with it at all. We all got on great as people. I see a lot of Mac [Ian McLagan], and more of Kenney [Jones] than I see of Rod, but whenever I do see Rod it is as if no time has gone by.

Do you think the day will ever come when you take The Faces out onto the road with another vocalist?

Yeah, of course. Rod’s got the option to come out with us, but whether he does or not there are plenty of great vocalists around and Rod knows it. The thing is, he’s got to get his street cred together and get off the Strictly Come Dancing or else he ain’t going to get in the band. Rod’s always welcome to join us, and it’s only complete when he’s there, but we’ve got all these people like the Gallagher brothers, Paul Weller, they’re all queuing up. Rod had better get up off his arse because there are so many other contenders. Rod deserves to be there and should be there, but if he can’t, his commitments and management say no, then it’ll be: sorry, you’ve missed the bus.

Do you enjoy returning to your Faces role of sole guitarist in the band again?

Yeah, I do love to return to it, then it makes me appreciate how I work with Keith, because he establishes the riff and I play around it. Funnily enough Mick Taylor is just about to arrive here. He’s another ancient former weaver that I’ve grown up with and always respected. He’s one of the best guitar players I’ve ever met. We’ll talk musically through our guitars together, no doubt. Jeff Beck just stayed overnight with me after your Awards, and said: “Come on, let’s play together again. You can get on bass.” And I said: “Jeff, I am there.”

But you’ll need Rod to complete the classic Jeff Beck Group line-up as well.

The trouble is that Rod wants a greenhouse around the drums, and those little things in your ears, and I don’t think that’s very rock’n’roll.

Speaking of ‘anti-rock’ technology, does Charlie Watts ever use a click track?

He’d never use a click track. If I said anything like that in front of him he’d kill me. He’d murder you if you mentioned that.

Aside from in the Jeff Beck Group you also played bass on Maggie May as well.

I played every instrument on Maggie May except for the mandolin.

You play bass like a guitarist.

Yeah. And Jeff still appreciates that to this day, same as Hendrix did. Jimi used to say: “Hey, give the bass player a chance,” and I’d take solos. He used to give me half-hour bass solos because he knew that I played the bass guitar like I do the six-string.

I played with him in Staten Island, the Scene Club in New York after hours; we used to bump into Hendrix as often as we’d bump into Sly & The Family Stone and Cream. We’d be doing the same circuit and staying at the same hotels. We’d meet up in the lobby and all end up playing together.

**We didn’t used to hear much from Ronnie Wood between Stones tours, now you seem to be everywhere: playing, painting, designing for Liberty… **

That’s because it takes years to get all the stuff I’ve been doing into action. I just love to be creative; when I go to Ireland I paint all the time. I play with Irish bands, the Stereophonics, my boy Jesse’s band. Next year I’ve got so much on it’s unbelievable, not least my new solo album. It’s my best ever. I’ve got Slash, Billy Gibbons, Flea, Jim Keltner, Ivan Neville, Mac, Kris Kristofferson, Bobby Womack, forget about it, it’s the best album I’ve ever made. I listen to it and go: “I can’t believe this is my album.”

The Faces and the Stones are pretty disciplined, but when playing with Bob Dylan you never know where he’s going to take the material.

That’s why I love playing with Bob. He’s a fellow Gemini. I’ve got a radio show coming up on Absolute. I took my inspiration from Bob’s Theme Time Radio Hour. They came to me and said would I do one and I said: “I can’t do one as good as Bob’s, but if I can take a guitar in and play in-between songs then I’ll do a radio show.” Now I’m doing 52 shows. I’m going to Africa tomorrow for three weeks and then, straight after I come back, I’ve got an exhibition in Russia. Africa’s a working holiday: I’m going to be painting, drawing and getting back to my wildlife preservation. I’m going to see Spike, my rhino, and his family, and the elephants that I save.

Has there ever been a time when you’ve regretted joining the Rolling Stones?

Not for a moment. Even with all the abuse I take from them, I’ll take that all day. They’re horrible people, you know, the Stones are really awful. I’m never going to get used to them.

Is there anyone that you’ve never worked with that you’d really love to?

I’d like to dig Elvis up. I’ve got a few bones to pick with him. I’ve worked with [Elvis band members] DJ [Fontana] and Scotty [Moore] and they always used to say to me: “You can be Elvis on this track.” And I’d go: “I can’t.” And they’d say: “You can. Otherwise, fuck off.”

Did you have ever imagine that you’d achieve this much?

I haven’t even started yet.

Maggie May

Ian Fortnam

Classic Rock’s Reviews Editor for the last 20 years, Ian stapled his first fanzine in 1977. Since misspending his youth by way of ‘research’ his work has also appeared in such publications as Metal Hammer, Prog, NME, Uncut, Kerrang!, VOX, The Face, The Guardian, Total Guitar, Guitarist, Electronic Sound, Record Collector and across the internet. Permanently buried under mountains of recorded media, ears ringing from a lifetime of gigs, he enjoys nothing more than recreationally throttling a guitar and following a baptism of punk fire has played in bands for 45 years, releasing recordings via Esoteric Antenna and Cleopatra Records.