Eric's First Online Chat - Transcript

Below is the transcript I got from AOL regarding Eric's First Online Chat on 24-7-00

AOL Live was delighted to present a first-ever online chat with music legend Eric Clapton. He stopped by to talk about his new blues project and illustrious career. Thirty years after he and B.B. King performed together for the first time, the two longtime friends joined forces again to create 'Riding With the King' -- a collection of blues classics and contemporary songs. Check out what he had to say below!

Scroll down to read the full transcript...

DrewLlVE: AOL welcomes music legend Eric Clapton. Today he will be taking questions about projects past and present, including his newest collaboration with B.B. King. The album, ‘Riding With the King,’ is currently ranked number one in Internet sales. And we are delighted to have him with us. Welcome, Eric Clapton.

Eric Clapton: Hello.

DrewLlVE: Did you have any opening comments for our audience?

Eric Clapton: I'm just very pleased to be able to talk about something that I'm very fond of, namely, the B.B. album.

DrewLlVE: We're very happy to have you. Well, the first question we have is actually related to the B.B. album. It's how did you and B.B. King meet, and what prompted the two of you to record together?

Eric Clapton: We met back in the 1960s in New York at a club in Greenwich Village when I was a -- first time for me in America. And I was with Cream. And I know Al Cooper, had known him for a while, and he had formed a band called Blood, Sweat and Tears, and it was their first gig down in the Village. And I went along to see the show. And B.B. came along, too. And the two of us ended up kind of jamming after the show. After everyone had gone, we sat onstage and played [with] what was left of the house band. And played for a couple of hours. And that was it, really. We kind of always tried to repeat that, that situation. Whenever they were in the same town on the road or something, we'd try to get together and play.

Eric Clapton: And over the years we talked about, “We must make a record,” you know, the kind of thing people say. And I always thought it was something we'd say, kind of like a promise that would never be kept. Finally about a year and a half ago, I thought I really -- I love this man, and I don't, you know, I don't know how many opportunities we're going to have. But it seems to me I'm really going to have to make time, because otherwise it just comes like [BS], you know, you talk about these things and I don't want to be known as a [BS-er]. And I said well, what are you doing in, you know, January or February of the year 2000? And he said I don't know, but let's set some time aside. And that was about a year ago, over a year ago. And then we started making plans.

Eric Clapton: And it takes a long time, believe it or not, to set something like this for the future. I usually have to plan something like this a year in advance. And we got to it. And I think, you know, by the time we got into the studio, we were so psyched up that it was a really quick job. We probably could have done the album even quicker than we did, but it was a fairly quick process. And I'm really pleased with the result, you know? That's it.

DrewLlVE: Will you or B.B. be doing performances in support of the release or be doing a tour together?

Eric Clapton: It's not likely because of, you know, what I was just saying about how much time it takes even just, for instance, to set time aside. If I was to -- if me and B.B. were going to even think about this, it would be a question of like, well, next year let's set some time aside. Now that, in itself, is like -- the way I move, would be an incredibly difficult thing to do because next year's gone for me, in terms of my work plans. And I know B.B.'s the same. And then even, just aside from putting the time, setting time for it, just putting together something like that. So what I would say about this particular situation is that we'll probably continue to do what we've done -- when I'm in his town or he's in mine, we'll just get up and play with one another.

DrewLlVE: Who was your biggest influence when you first started to play guitar? And do you still feel these influences today?

Eric Clapton: Yeah, even more, you know. My earliest -- my earliest heroes were Buddy Holly, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley. I didn't discover the black guys till later. Where I was situated in England, the white music was the first stuff I got, with Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley. Then I started scratching the surface and I saw that behind that there was this whole kingdom of music. Obviously I still love, you know, the rock guys and the country guys and rock 'n' roll. I always love that. But my heart was won over by black R&B and, of course, the blues.

Eric Clapton: When I'd listen to Bo Diddley or Chuck Berry, I'd hear songs that were kind of like slow songs that would have intense emotional appeal. And I'd find out that they were cover songs that these guys had done in tribute to people like Muddy Waters or, you know, other guys like that. I kind of became a archivist. I started to research on my own, you know, would go around record stores and look for obscure blues records. And I went to the hall and educated myself on the history of music. And all of it has influenced me in time, you know, all of it has taken part of my attention and contributed to what I feel I am as a musician.

DrewLlVE: ‘Riding With the King’ fulfilled one of my greatest musical fantasies. I also love the ‘Crossroads’ concert. Any plans to get together with other artists?

Eric Clapton: Yeah, you know, I've got one really big ambition, but I can't reveal it. It's kind of -- another hero of mine who's kind of since retired. But I don't want to mention it because -- and I almost did, and I feel now I mustn't say this, because it would be inappropriate without having spoken to him first. I mean, you'll have to take that as me saying, really, that there are a couple more people left that I really, really would love to play with, you know? Guys of my age who are not necessarily part of the music scene anymore but have had a profound influence on my -- the way I look at music. For me, the deal is not done yet, you know?

DrewLlVE: OK. The next question is about the new album. On the new album, was it mostly a result of -- one second -- was it mostly a result of a jam session collaboration, or were most of the songs crafted ahead of time?

Eric Clapton: Some of them were. Some -- some of the songs were -- nothing was really routine. You know, there are some situations when we'd go into the studio where a certain amount of time is set aside in advance to rehearse material. But not -- that wasn't -- we didn't use that, because we're probably not going to need that. There was -- I had kind of compartmentalized what I thought we could approach, which was kind of like an unplugged dynamic, a contemporary dynamic and a live blues dynamic. And I wanted to create a good environment for each of those sort of concepts.

Eric Clapton: And we started out by just me and B.B. for a week with acoustic guitars. And the next week we sort of divided up between, you know, we'd try a contemporary song and then when it was getting difficult, just as a moment of light relief, we'd do something from B.B.'s past. So there was like, of course, in terms of material, some of it was going to be new and some of it was going to be covers and some of it was going to be ancient B.B. material. I mean, I wanted to really -- I really wanted him to visit his own past, you know?

DrewLlVE: How did your relationship with Fender Guitar begin?

Eric Clapton: I saw -- the first Fender I ever saw was the bass that the guy in Jerry Lee Lewis' band was playing when they made the film clip for his song "Great Balls of Fire." And I'd never seen anything quite like it before. And the next thing you knew it, these guys in England were using it and Buddy Holly was using a Sunburst. Then when I got to finding out with the blues guys -- Buddy Guy used a Fender Strat. Johnny "Guitar" Watson.

Eric Clapton: Steve Winwood, I saw using one many, many, many years later. And I was at that time using a Gibson Les Paul. And I just saw the way Steve was -- he was getting a very clean sound. Of course, Jimi Hendrix, too, was using it. And I liked the fact these guys were getting a really clean sound out of the guitar. And I was quite used to, maybe getting a bit bored with the big sound of the Gibson, which I had pushed to the limit, really, with what I would do -- roll the treble off at the bridge pickup. And I think I may have got, you know, a bit jaded with that. And I thought, well, this may be the way to go. And I got so into it that I never came back, really. It's still been, it still is my guitar of choice, electrically speaking, you know.

DrewLlVE: I see. Well, the next question we have is from someone who's just starting out playing the guitar, and they want to know: What do you feel are the best qualities a great guitarist should possess?

Eric Clapton: There is only one. I mean, if you've got, you know, more than two fingers on either hand and a pair of ears, that's -- for me, the most important ingredient, and perhaps the only one that really matters, is a listening component. And it's -- it maybe sounds a bit simplistic, but, in fact, you have to be able to listen with your heart. And it's a rare quality. Even people, I mean in everyday life, very few of them I've met that know how to listen with their heart. And it could be just having a conversation at lunch where someone is -- we're just talking about the affairs of the day, and halfway through what I'm saying they will cut in by saying oh, yeah, I know what you mean or an interruption or whatever. But there's not that many people I have met in my life that have that gift. It's not just a gift, it has to be developed.

Eric Clapton: But it's a question of listening with empathy to everything and anything, and then applying that. And so even as a player, it's necessary even when playing to be listening to the musicians around you, or whatever, or to your environment, and to incorporate that in your playing, because otherwise you can become an incredibly skilled virtuoso but with absolutely no connection to the rest of the world. You know, I know lots of bedroom guitar players who are fantastic. I meet musicians who are really competent, but they have no capacity to play with other musicians because they don't know how to listen. It's a very, very important and perhaps the most important thing.

DrewLlVE: Regarding free music on the Internet, our audience member wants to know: What is your take on Napster?

Eric Clapton: I think it's scary. I read the thing where the guy from Metallica was talking about how important it was for him to take a stand. And I identify with that side of it, I must admit. And it's something to do with -- there's a sort of entitlement concept which has become very common amongst the younger generation, which is that if I want something, then, therefore, I should be able to have it, you know? And that whole thing is a little worrying to me, because I feel it undermines the character of the human being in question, because they're not implying values anymore. If -- it just seems to me that I see something in a shop window and I want it, and, therefore, I'm entitled to get it. I mean I can walk into the store, take it off the peg and walk out without paying. It's almost like saying, well, musicians [are] different [from] all other people, and why should we pay them? Music should be free.

Eric Clapton: And there are two sides to this. When I first was starting to make music, the older generation of my time was saying, why don't you get a proper job? Now it's kind of like, well, maybe music isn't a job making -- maybe that isn't supposed to be an income, a source of income. But as long as it is, then I don't understand how people can believe that they're entitled to just have it for nothing. I thank God I'm at the end of my career, perhaps, and retirement wouldn't be that far away from my situation. But for someone who's coming into the business who doesn't have any money and wants to be a musician, does that mean he's going to work for nothing? I mean, I don't quite understand that concept. And that's one side of it.

Eric Clapton: The most disturbing thing for me is that there is this kind of attitude which is that there is no moral issue involved, there is no ethical issue involved. If it's there and I can have it, I should just take it. And I did see one guy who was a little older who said that he was having some problem -- he was using Napster but he was -- something -- some problems with it. It didn't seem to infringe some moral and ethical boundaries. If those moral and ethical boundaries aren't acknowledged in a situation like that, then why should they exist anywhere else? And that's a worrying thing for the future of our society. So it's kind of like another kind of epidemic altogether, which is spreading fast, you know.

DrewLlVE: I'm a huge fan of John Hiatt and I think you do an amazing version with "Riding With the King." How did the contribution come about?

Eric Clapton: Well, the contribution came about because a publisher sent us the song, and it turned out that John had recorded this a long, long time ago, and it was actually the title track of one of his albums. And so we had to get John's permission and also ask John to do a slight rewrite on the lyrics, because the lyrics were a little bit different in his version. I have known John a long time, and we are friends. I haven't seen him for a very long time because he lives in another part of the states. I live now part time in LA, and he lives, I believe, in Nashville. But he used to be out here, and I used to see him quite a lot back in the early 1980s and the 1970s when he was collaborating, and I have the greatest respect for his musicianship and his writing and as a guy -- he's a great guy and, you know, a formidable musician.

DrewLlVE: Are there any artists in particular today that you enjoy listening to, any modern artists?

Eric Clapton: Modern artists? What was the last part?

DrewLlVE: Any modern artists, I guess popular music, you know, on the radio.

Eric Clapton: Popular music is -- it's always been difficult for me. Ever since I was a kid, I would look for underground stuff, you know? I like a band in England that's pretty good. I like Doyle Bramhall a lot, who worked on the B.B. album with us. He's kind of a new guy, but he's not a young kid. He's in his 30s. I like a lot -- I love some of my own country's underground music, you know, the drum and bass revolution I thought was very, very important. I like Massive Attack, their music. I like a lot of dance music. I like a lot of the European DJs. And I like -- I still like to listen to a various kind of spectrum of things, like from classical music to Middle Eastern music. And recently I've become very, very fond of and becoming, believe it or not, influenced by Joao Gilberto. I was lucky enough to see him live a couple of weeks ago in London, and it was an incredible experience. So I'm really kind of open. But I like -- I like a lot of the young bands here. There was a great band that I saw on a video and went out and bought their album. I love music like that.

DrewLlVE: They're a lot of fun.

Eric Clapton: I like Green Day a lot, too. That's a great band. And also some of the rap. I'm a big fan of Juvenile. I just think Juvenile is [it]. I'm not that mad on the kind of glitzy kind of high-profile stuff. But Juvenile is kind of more like a street-cred guy. I like that. Yeah, I mean, I like -- if it's music with heart and power and passion, I like it.

DrewLlVE: What advice would you give to a young blues player in today's pop-oriented music scene?

Eric Clapton: Go and find a vinyl shop, because it's getting harder to find, you know, on CD. I don't know, you know, go to a good music store and just search through the bins for obscure stuff because the way -- I think the way it's going with video and the music TV channels, we almost don't know anymore that there was -- there is a history to this music. It's kind of become like everyone's involved in some kind of dance troupe, you know, and so like one video after another is just like a sequence out of some 1950s Hollywood musical. And I don't really know what that's going to do to the future of music. And it needs to get back to, you know, the fact that this was really about a bunch of guys who were individuals that would sometimes play together, you know?

Eric Clapton: And my heroes were always the guys that could sit down in a room with an acoustic guitar and charm the pants off of you, and without any, you know, without anything to plug into whatsoever. And those guys are still around. You've just got to search them out. And I think it is important -- almost in opposition to what we were talking about with that Internet problem, is that part of the joy of the journey of learning music is that the search... you know, if everything just becomes so easy and easy to acquire as it is now, you know, with the Web and everything, then we don't actually get any blisters on our feet from looking for things. And I think that's where the music and heart of it comes from.

DrewLlVE: Absolutely. The next question we have is: Who was Big Bill Broonzy?

Eric Clapton: He was one of these guys that I'm talking about. He was a blues musician from Mississippi, through just his gift and his determination became very, very popular in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, and actually became a kind of international celebrity. And he toured the world. He played in London and Paris and all over Europe and did quite a lot -- made a lot of records. So there's plenty of stuff of his on CD that you can find. And he also, you know, there is some film clip of him in existence, too. And he was the guy, kind of -- he made blues almost, you know, accessible to the white, young population back in the 1960s as much as anybody did.

Eric Clapton: Other guys like Leadbelly and Josh White who are equally as good at making it accessible to the white people and that -- they kind of, not watered it down, but just opened up their repertoires to include songs like "Down by the Riverside," songs that were kind of more easy to digest for the white palate. And I got into him because of his technique, really, and his singing style. I just thought he was the cleanest, the most proficient of that generation. And the guy before him for me was Robert Johnson. But Robert Johnson only made one album, and there is no film footage of him, whereas Big Bill, there's a lot more you can get about. And he was pretty much better known, too.

DrewLlVE: I heard that one of your philanthropic projects was opening a rehabilitation center. How do I find out more information about it?

Eric Clapton: That's a difficult question, because I could give the number of the center, but then it would be flooded with calls. And they'd just prefer those calls to come from -- I think there is a Web site on the Internet. And it's Crossroads, Antigua. I don't know the actual address, but I'm pretty sure it will be easy enough to find.

DrewLlVE: Maybe we can post that later on with the transcript.

Eric Clapton: That would be good.

DrewLlVE: How did you meet up with Charlie Sexton?

Eric Clapton: I have never -- well, I've only met Charlie backstage a couple of times. I don't know where this question is coming from, but Charlie and I have never really hung out together. The last time I saw him, he was playing in Bob's -- Bob Dylan's band. I saw him at the Hollywood Bowl, and I was really impressed. I think he was probably involved with Doyle and stuff. But I don't have a history with Charlie. Although I would love to do a collaboration with him.

DrewLlVE: The next question is: Yo, Eric, what do you think of young blues guitarists today such as Kenny Wayne Shepard? Have you ever considered collaborating with them?

Eric Clapton: I think they're great, but I don't think they're -- they're not my favorites. I don't want to offend anybody, but I've seen their work and I really admire what they're doing, but the guy that I'm really into the most from that generation is Doyle. I think he's -- I don't know, he just got something extra.

DrewLlVE: An audience member asks: One of my favorite artists, besides you, of course, is Phil Collins. Have you ever thought of working with him?

Eric Clapton: We did. We did collaborate. Back in the 1980s, we made two albums together. We made one called Behind the Sun, and we made another one shortly after called August. And they're both favorite albums of mine. They're very 1980s kind of influenced with a lot of drum, very kind of live drum sounds and everything, and probably, you know, more to do with Phil's sound than mine, but it was good fun. And he's a great guy. We go back a long way.

DrewLlVE: The next question is: I noticed recently that you've changed record labels. With all the changes in the music industry, like label consolidation, for instance, do you think that this will help benefit artists or be problematic?

Eric Clapton: Did it say that I've changed labels?

DrewLlVE: Yes.

Eric Clapton: Oh, that's no true. I've been with them for the last, oh, God, 20 years. (laughter)

DrewLlVE: OK, they're incorrect on that one. (laughter)

Eric Clapton: Well, there was a time I thought that I might look around, especially when all this stuff was going down with, you know, the Internet. I thought, I wonder how this is going to -- should I stay where I am? And I talked to my label and, you know, we -- we had some disagreements around an album that I put out called Pilgrim a couple of years ago, and since then we've resolved our differences and we're on the best of terms. And they've done a great job with everything since then.

Eric Clapton: So I have, you know, a good contract with them which will last a few more years. And I think when that contract runs out, I don't know, maybe it will be time for me to quit. I don't know. And if I did want to carry on, I'd have to seriously think about how to approach it, because in two or three years' time, who knows how this thing will be panning out? Because it seems to be changing so fast, you know, with the Internet involvement and all of the possible -- the possible opportunities. I don't know what's going to happen. It could be that, you know, the record company will probably just surround the whole thing and take it captive. But I don't think so. So I'm playing -- I'm playing it by ear, really, to see how it goes day by day.

DrewLlVE: What do you do in your free time? If you weren't a musician, what else would you be, careerwise?

Eric Clapton: Well, I love to go fishing, but I don't think I could make a -- I don't think I could actually make a living at it. But maybe I'd be a -- I don't know, a pool player. I love to play pool as well. Kind of meaningless things. I'm also a very, very journeyman designer. I like to design all kinds of things, furniture, clothes, artifacts, anything. I mean, if you give me a sketch pad and a pencil, I'll sit all day and invent things. So that could be -- that was originally what I was going to be before the guitar came along and took my attention. But I don't know, maybe that will be something I could go back to. I very much incorporate that into my daily life anyway. I like to kind of take charge of album designs and things like that, and pretty much design the clothes I wear. And so that will probably be the first choice, if I wanted to think about how I was going to make any money. But if it was about just how to fill time, I'd be on the river bank with a rod.

DrewLlVE: Excellent. Next question we have is from a beginning guitar player: What kind of guitar would you recommend to a beginner?

Eric Clapton: I don't think there's any easy way in, to be honest. I think if -- if it's a question of finance, the problem with that is if you buy something cheap, it will actually inhibit your progress, because a cheap guitar is probably going to be harder to play than an expensive guitar. It's probably best to go in at the deep end and buy something really good like a Fender or a Martin, because I'm sure, you know, you will find in their catalog that there are, you know, lower-priced models, but it will have the quality of workmanship, so you can make leaps and bounds in the earliest part of your trying. But I think it's important to buy good, quality merchandise, because it will enhance the playing and it will sound better.

DrewLlVE: Absolutely. Well, we're starting to get near the end of the event, but we have a couple more questions here, and then we'll be done. Let's see. This question is: I loved your scene in the film Tommy. What was it like working on screen?

Eric Clapton: I can barely remember. I was in semi-blackout for most of that. I went through the brandy and other substances that were being introduced into my system, along with the rest of the guys. I can't really remember very much about it except that I was so kind of turned off by the whole thing in the end, because I don't really like that, being on that side of the camera. But I remember the director or his assistant called me up afterwards and said we need to shoot one more scene, so I deliberately shaved by beard off. He said that's no problem, just come down and we'll stick another one on. They did, hair by hair. And it took like three hours. That's my main memory of it.

Eric Clapton: And also Moon, you know, hanging out with Moon, who was a complete and utter lunatic. And we had a lot of fun together. That was probably -- him and Pete, you know. I was very close to Keith. And I'm very close to Pete. It was Pete's baby, making that movie, so he took it a little bit more seriously than I wanted to or Keith wanted to. And we were desperately trying to sabotage the whole thing all of the time. And he wasn't that pleased. But a lot of the time he would get into it. But I mean, I love those guys and I felt very honored that Pete wanted me to be involved.

DrewLlVE: OK. And our final question we have is: Do you feel that you have to make a video? Do you think that videos add anything to the music when it's released?

Eric Clapton: I think -- I mean, I have to answer this as a customer, really, because having, for instance, just gone to see this guy, I would love to have a video of him. But I don't know if that's the same as him making a video. You know, I mean I'd love to be able to get -- go home now, get a video out of Joao Gilberto and plug it in and watch him play -- but I don't think I'd be interested in watching him with a troupe of dancers or with some kind of Hollywood director inventing a neat little concert wrapped around his personality. I don't think -- I think I would get very turned off by that. And if I'm going to be honest when I surf, I go through the music channels pretty quick. You know, I don't -- I don't think it's got very far. I think it's got into a dead end. And it's all like a formula that everyone just overlays over everybody, the dancing kind of -- you know, the same kind of old stuff over and over again.

Eric Clapton: The only interesting one I've seen was Tim Benson's video, and also Tom Waits video. Tim Benson's video is probably the best alternative video. I do like the underground stuff. There was a great one that -- Thom Yorke did one for a song called "Rabbit in the Headlights." The creativity in the underground, in the alternative marketplace -- but most of the commercial stuff is pretty vomit-making, I think. So I mean, it's like a yes and no answer, really. The bottom line is I hate doing them.

DrewLlVE: Well, we've reached the end of our questions. I was wondering if you have any closing comments about your new release, or anything else you'd like to share?

Eric Clapton: Well, I just wanted to say that I'm here in the studio now to start work on my album, which won't probably come out until the new year. And really I'm probably plugging B.B. and mine as we did it, because I was so pleased with that, that all I've done is I've come back to the same studio, got the same guys, you know, who actually know it word for word. The only person who's not here is B.B. So that's a good plug for that album. I thought that was a great result. And I'm just going to go and set my heart on trying to get something as good for myself.

DrewLlVE: Thank you very much. America Online would like to thank Eric Clapton for joining us for this very special chat event this evening. For more information on Eric Clapton, be sure to check out Take care.

Eric Clapton: Thanks a lot. God bless. Bye-bye. Going to add some stuff right now.

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