Keith Richards: 'I Want to See How Far the Stones Can Go'

The Stones guitarist on their summer tour, playing 'Sticky Fingers' and his upcoming solo album

The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards tells us about 'Sticky Fingers' and his new solo album in a new interview. Credit: Mark Seliger

If everything goes according to plan, the next year is going to be a busy time for Keith Richards. He's about to begin rehearsals for a 15-date North American stadium tour with the Rolling Stones, he's got a new solo album roughly slated for September and he may even support it with his first solo tour since 1993. We spoke about all this and more with Richards, who phoned up Rolling Stone after our talk with Mick Jagger.

I just spoke to Mick and he said you guys were thinking about playing Sticky Fingers straight through on this tour. What's your take on that?
Well, it wasn't my idea. It was kicked around. I don't know if that would be every night. We might do it in places. First off, we've got to rehearse it all. When it came up, I said, "Yeah, it's not Exile on Main St. We could do that."

Mick was worried there were too many ballads for a stadium audience.
I don't know. It was just an idea. When we get to rehearsals, we'll give it a try.

I'd love to hear "Moonlight Mile" and "Sister Morphine."
It's very rare we play them. Playing them in order is an interesting idea. We'll see how it goes. I'd like to give it a try.

When do rehearsals begin?
I think by the end of April we'll go down to Los Angeles for a couple of weeks and then take it down to San Diego to work on the stage.

Do you think they'll be any sort of public rehearsal show?
I've seen no plans for that yet. Usually, those things happen much closer to the event, so I don't know nothing about that yet.

"I'd like to see just how far [the band] can evolve. I have no demands or particular visions for them."

From your perspective, is playing a stadium much different than an arena?
Not drastically. It's just a lot bigger. And with stadiums you've always got the weather to deal with. God joins the band in one form or another.

Your tours used to last about two years followed by long breaks. Why has this one been so different?
I think everybody's really been enjoying the last few years on the road. The last break was really long; about five years. I think everybody really missed it because we came back energized.

Do these shows feel different to you than previous tours?
It's really difficult to say. Once you're up onstage, it's very familiar ground to me. All audiences are different slightly, but what I go up onstage for is the fact that things are not different. Things stay the same.

Beyond the Sticky Fingers stuff, are there any rare songs you hope to bring back on this tour?
It's early days. We'll be talking about it. I guess I'm going to be seeing Mick next week. I have no doubt the subject will come up.

Are you bringing Mick Taylor on the tour?
Um, I'm not sure. The last I heard…I'm not sure if he's available or what his condition is at the moment. I'm waiting to hear about that.

That's a shame because he's all over Sticky Fingers.
Yeah, it's just one of those things. I'm not sure. I just haven't gotten into that thing, but I heard he was sick. [Through a representative, Taylor says he is not sick and was not invited onto the tour.]

Do you see Sticky Fingers as a pivotal record in the band's evolution?
Well, it was one of them. Beggars Banquet was another. But with Sticky Fingers, we were working very much with [producer] Jimmy Miller, which was a very fruitful period.

And you were on a new label and thus had a little more freedom, right?
Yeah, yeah. That was the first one on the label. So we did pretty much whatever we wanted to do. Mind you, we always did anyway. What happened after Sticky Fingers? Was it Goats Head Soup or something?

It was Exile.
Of course. I'm getting them mixed up. Sticky Fingers was the last one we made in England at our old haunt, Olympic Studios. Right after that, we moved.

I imagine this tour will be bittersweet since it's the first one since Bobby Keys passed away.
Man, he'll certainly be missed, especially backstage. He was a good, good friend of mine. But he would be the first to say, "The show must go on."

Do you think they'll be a new Stones album at some point?
We're talking about doing some recording after this tour, but there's nothing definite. We just threw out the idea. I'd like to get the boys back in the studio again, yeah. Anything can happen.

What's the status of your solo album?
I think that's coming out in September.

Is it totally done?
Just done, yeah. We're looking for the right time slot to bring it out. The Stones have been working so much lately that I've been holding off until we could find a reasonable time. I think it's September, but I don't know for sure.

Who plays on it?
[Drummer] Steve Jordan and me. We're joined here and there by [guitarist] Waddy Wachtel and [Rolling Stones backup singer] Bernard Fowler. Steve and I put it together.

"With stadiums, you've always got the weather to deal with. God joins the band in one form or another."

Are you thinking about doing solo shows to promote it?
That's being kicked around. At the moment, I'm just getting my head into the Stones and I haven't really thought about what I'm going to do afterwards. But usually if I put a record out, I do some road work. So, it's possible.

Is the thrill of playing live the same as it always was for you?
Yeah. It's a unique feeling, really, and you kind of miss it. I'm ready to get up there. I've been looking forward to it.

I know you've been asked this a million times, but do you see a point in the future when the band will stop touring?
No, I never think about that. I leave that to other people.

I guess if Chuck Berry is nearly 90 and still doing this…
Exactly. As long as I feel like it and there's people to listen to it, we'll do it.

What do you hope to see The Stones accomplish before you guys wrap it up?
That's a good question. I'd like to see just how far they can evolve. I have no demands or particular visions for them, but you're just part of this thing and I want to see how far it will go.

I'm always so impressed by Charlie. He just seems to get better and better.
Yeah, man. He's an incredible drummer, man. A very, very cool customer.

I remember a few years ago, Johnny Depp was shooting a documentary about you. There was even some sort of performance he filmed. What happened with that?
We shot some stuff, but I don't think there's anything in the cards about it. I don't think he's going to use the footage and I don't think I've seen Johnny for a couple of years.

To wrap up here, I just want to ask again about "Moonlight Mile" since I've always wanted to see that live. Do you think you guys are going to do it?
Yeah, I think we'll give it a bash, yeah. I'll tell you what: I'll play it for you right now. [Laughs]