Richards originally came to prominence as a member of Georgia Satellites. In 1990, singer-songwriter Dan Baird departed the group, leaving Richards in a state of flux. Stradlin quickly enlisted the six-stringer to join his new endeavor, Izzy Stradlin and the Ju Ju Hounds. The collaboration between the pair has flourished ever since.
Richards detailed his relationship with Stradlin in an exclusive conversation with UCR.
You’re perhaps one of the guys who has gotten to know Izzy Stradlin the most, doing as many albums with him as you have. What’s your favorite thing about working with Izzy?
The [best] thing about working with Izzy is just hanging out with him. He’s a great cat, man. You know, Izzy Stradlin dances to the beat of his own drummer, if you know what I mean.
He does his thing, man. You don’t really impede on that. But yeah, we’ve spent a lot of time together. A lot of time together.
He’s really underrated, I think. From your perspective, what is it that makes him so unique and interesting as a songwriter?
Well, to reiterate, he dances to the beat of his own drummer. [Laughs] What’s in his head musically, it’s just different. It’s just different. Someone asked me about the transition between playing with Dan [Baird, in the Georgia Satellites] as a second guitarist as opposed to playing with Izzy as a second guitarist.
It wasn’t very much of a big leap. You know, Dan played more solos than Izzy. But they’re both rhythm masters, man. They’re both great rhythm guitar players. So the transition was easy and plus we had a great band too [working on 1992’s Izzy Stradlin & the Ju Ju Hounds album and tour].
Were you in the same room with Izzy and Duff McKagan for 2010’s Wave of Heat album?
Duff’s great. We did a tour of Japan with Duff. Me, Izzy, Duff and drummer [Patrick] “Taz” Bentley, who was previously with Reverend Horton Heat. Izzy saw the Rev and noticed Taz and he goes, “That’s the guy.” Fortunately, he was the guy.
We did this tour of Japan and I’m sitting next to Duff on the plane, and I’m going, “Well, I really would like a drink, but I know he’s sober.” I said, “Hey Duff, man, if I get a glass of wine, is that going to bother you?” He went, “Fuck no, man! You could lay out a line of heroin on that tray right there and I wouldn’t give a shit!” [Laughs] But that was fun, man. Duff’s a great cat. Great cat.
Do you get the sense that there’s more music to be made with Izzy?
Yeah, the last time I spoke with him was during the pandemic, like eight months ago. I said, “Look, if you ever feel like doing it again, I’m at your disposal.” He goes, “Yeah, you know, you’re the first I’ll call.” I haven’t heard from him, but you know, we cut so much material. There’s so much Izzy material that’s never seen the light of day that needs to. There’s tons of stuff out there. I don’t know if he’s ever going to release it or not.
What do you think he likes about playing with you? You’re the consistent guy through so much of his solo work.
Yeah, I don’t know. I think he likes the way I play, because we kind of come from the same place guitar-wise. Also, I didn’t impose my opinion about stuff a lot. Nor did I quiz him about GNR or anything like that. I think we might have talked about [Guns N’ Roses] once or twice. That just wasn’t on the table. I think he kind of appreciated that fact. You know, there’s people in Los Angeles that would give their right nut to play with Izzy Stradlin.
Hell, people anywhere, guitarists anywhere. The fact that he chose me was really special. I just think we had a great chemistry. You know, we’d laugh and make stupid jokes. That kind of thing. A lot of it in the music business has to do with, “Can you hang?” Can you hang with this person? Do you do it and then leave or do you do it and then hang out and discuss things and irregardless of music or anything under the sun, can you hang? The hang is a big part and he was a good hang, man.
Coming into all of it, did you get the sense that he was a Georgia Satellites fan?
Yeah, he was. I think Duff or Slash told me that he had [our] tape on the bus constantly. You know, he’s a Midwesterner and I don’t care how high on the hog you get, your roots are still there. He had these Midwestern roots, this Midwestern sensibility about rock and roll and music. So I think he kind of saw that in us being from the South. You know, that appealed to him.
Yeah, I wondered how much that played into him wanting to bring you into his musical world and if that was even part of it at all.
He was a fan. I met him in Atlanta when they were opening for Motley Crue. A few months later and I think this was after he decided to split GNR. We were at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano playing a gig and Izzy shows up. We chat before the show and he was telling me about his dissatisfaction with the organization he was in. I told him, “Yeah, man, I know how that goes.”
He stayed the whole show and we chatted afterward. I didn’t hear from him or anything. I had no notion that I’d be working with him until a few months later and then I got the call from [Ju Ju Hounds bassist] Jimmy Ashhurst. But yeah, he kind of dug the band. And I dug his band. I think the GNR thing was kind of, not to be so bold as to say [it was] coming from the same place. But you know, they kind of took the sails out of that glam L.A. thing. Which I was not a huge fan of. Even though they were kind of pigeonholed in that, but not for long.
I think the reason that they rose above that melee was, [because of] Slash. His guitar playing was much more akin to Joe Perry or that ilk of player. Blues-based and British-based playing. And if you’ll recollect, the guitars at that time were very Eddie Van Halen-influenced. That’s fine, that’s fine. But you’re never going to walk in the shoes of that cat. It just became kind of a fiasco. And then they came along and it was like, this is rock and roll. This is not glam metal or whatever the trend was at the time. These guys have done their homework. That Appetite for Destruction record was one of my favorites.
Georgia Satellites will release Lightnin’ In A Bottle: The Official Live Album — their first posthumous live set — in March 2022.
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