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Shine A Light - Keith Richards interview

Shine A Light

Compiled by Jack Foley

KEITH Richards talks about working with Martin Scorsese on Rolling Stones’ movie Shine A Light and his own personal experience of playing live and keeping the show on the road for so long.

Q. Did you enjoy yourself at the premiere in Berlin?
Keith Richards: Last night? I was actually, well, wow! I didn’t think there was another way of filming The Stones on stage that would actually make me want to sit through it. I mean it’s just watching yourself, but Marty’s turned it into cinema. It’s like a ballet, with all the cameras and everybody’s playing great. And I was very happy with it.

Q. Did you learn something new from making the film?
Keith Richards: Yes. I learnt how not to make that mistake with that particular finger. You see, I’m watching it and I think: “I screwed up. That was the wrong note, the wrong place.” We don’t like to look at ourselves very much; you just see the whole thing.

Q. Do you appreciate the element of self-celebration in the film?
Keith Richards: It felt like it to me. The Beacon Theater is a great venue and Martin has got that special ability. I was not aware, in other words, that we were shooting a movie, and I figure that’s what Martin wanted. If you want to shoot a Rolling Stones show don’t let them know they’re being filmed, especially with Michael [laughter]! Oh my God. The front men are always like that.

Q. The cameras didn’t get in the way then?
Keith Richards: You didn’t see them. I must say I was totally unaware that we were shooting a movie while we were doing it. I mean, I knew it but when you get up on the stage you have another job to do and I couldn’t concentrate on that at the same time as thinking: “This is a special night , we are shooting a movie.” Martin’s very discreet with cameras and nothing is in the way. You didn’t even know where they were so you could deliver basically what Martin wanted, which is a Rolling Stones show.

Q. The cameras seem to be everywhere…
Keith Richards: He had them stashed in the balconies, everywhere! You can ask him about that. Seriously, he has an incredible crew, an incredible team. It was almost as if two great teams were working together, the Rolling Stones and Martin and his guys and incredible cinema guys and incredible camera men, all well hidden. Martin was quite amazing. It’s probably the best show I’ve ever done on film.

Q. You didn’t play any songs from A Bigger Bang
Keith Richards: No, although we hope to make another record. All the stuff in the movie is very old, oh yeah, but it’s all still alive. And so am I.

Q. How does watching yourself on stage make you feel?
Keith Richards: Looking at yourself is always kind of weird! You think: “Oh, Christ! I just shaved that!” But then you take a step back and just see the way things move around and then it comes. Charlie doesn’t have much option really, he’s just stuck on that seat. There’s not a lot of room for expression except through [he makes some drum noises]. We’re musicians. Once we’re up there we have to lock in real tight and it’s not some game you are playing at.

Q. In terms of your footage every single scene of your public life is well covered. I presume a lot of the stuff you saw for the first time?
Keith Richards: It’s very true. Ever since I was 19 or 20-years-old everything has been documented, my whole life. There’s never been a need to write a diary. I just look it up.

Q. How did guest stars come about? Christine Aguilera and Buddy Guy?
Keith Richards: To me, that was one of the highlights of the movie. Buddy Guy with his amazing energy, amazing presence. I gave him the guitar. It’s for real. I did. At the end because he played so damn good. I said: “This one’s yours, pal.”

Q. What are you working on right now?
Keith Richards: I’m working on getting off of the tour. No big plans right now. This has come up. The tour finished and then there’s this.

Q. There’s always a lot of talk of this maybe the last tour and last album…
Keith Richards: I’ve heard that for 30 years. It’s so boring.

Q. Does it get easier to write songs when you have more experience?
Keith Richards: Well, I used to sit down and in those days, Satisfaction comes along. Meanwhile, there’s a knock at the door: “We need the follow up.” So, there was a certain amount of pressure which was very good for us, I think, in those days. That you’ve got to write a song, you’ve got to come up with something in six weeks. But since all of that pressure is off, coming up with a hit every two months, although it was a good training ground, now I consider songs, I don’t write them. I consider myself an antenna and I sit down with an instrument and, hey, I might play Bach or some Buddy Holly and then if anything comes, it comes in by itself. I consider my job is to have this little idea and I nurture it and put it in some form that everybody else can understand and then sort of pass it on. It’s really a passing through. In other words, you receive and you transmit; I don’t create nothing and the idea of creating things is, Hey, God does that; man does the song writing.

Q. Who decides the set list?
Keith Richards: That’s Mick, mainly. We have to defer to him with the set list. I mean, there’s a guy out there who has to sing these things and it depends how he feels that day. “I can’t do that song because my throat feels a little stretched.” Always let the singer pick the song. You might want to change the order of them. “You can’t do that or you’ll have five songs in the key of A.” Apart from that you’ve got to go with what the singer is going to do. He’s the one who has got to go build it up and if he doesn’t feel like doing this or that. It’s all a matter of adjustment, basically.

Q. In the film you often look ecstatic when you play…
Keith Richards: I get right up there, baby. When it’s good I feel like I’m about a foot off the ground. My feet don’t actually touch the ground. It’s like there are electromagnets. Then suddenly, you see. I think you see that when Buddy Guy plays, the tempo is good, and it feels like levitation. That’s the only way I can get that high! [Laughs]

Read our review of Shine A Light

Read our interview with Mick Jagger