How is Keith Richards personally

"They should be here in five minutes," says Hervé, the mustached owner of "Luc's". His French bistro in Ridgefield - an idyllic Connecticut town that still seems to breathe the spirit of Norman Rockwell - is in an inconspicuous alley off Main Street. Visitors who are present are discreetly informed that the terrace is now closed. Even the sound wallpaper in the restaurant is quickly exchanged: instead of classical music, we suddenly hear “Pressure Drop” by Toots and the Maytals.

At 3 p.m. sharp, the guest gets out of his black Mercedes driven by a chauffeur. (Despite his image as notorious chaos, Richards is always meticulously punctual.) The old anarcho-pirate is also off duty today visually: the headscarf and the misappropriated fishing hooks that he has recently been wearing in his hair are not used this time. After all: a touch of exotic sandalwood wafts around it. (Tom Waits, a close friend for years, even says that he smells “like a campfire”.)

"Everything stays in the family"

Richards, 72, uses the time between two Stones tours to pay a visit to his American hideaway and talk about "Crosseyed Heart", his recently released solo album. He enters the bar, briefs the bartender, goes out onto the terrace and gives two teenage boys a kiss on the head. As it turns out, they are the sons of Hervé, who is married to the niece of Patti Hansen, Richard's wife of many years. Richards takes a seat and lights one of countless Marlboros. “Everything stays in the family,” he says. "They made the place one of the hippest bistros in New England - and it just happens to be my favorite potion."

Marissa, Hervé's likeable wife, brings us a few fries to the table without being asked. “Thanks, darling,” he says, but doesn't touch her. (He's never the big eater when he goes out - even if he takes the whole family out for dinner. He prefers to be at the stove later at home, pounding a chicken fillet or making sausages with mashed potatoes.)
Conveniently, he lives very close by. His opulent, Italian-looking villa, which is right next to a huge nature reserve, is just 15 minutes away. As early as the late eighties, he made Connecticut the center of his life - the birth of daughters Alexandra and Theodora being the decisive trigger.

Richards and Hansen lived in the East Village at the time, which not only had little green space, but also caused rather unpleasant associations with Richards: "In the 1970s there were occasional problems with the heroin supply," he recalls. “We had to go down to the East Side - the gun in our pocket. Just in case. When the kids were one or two years old, I said to myself, 'Nah, I'm tired of going for a walk with my kids on 4th Street' - especially not when there is fresh air and unspoiled nature close by gives. The area here is called New England for a reason - a lot actually reminds me of Sussex or Surrey. "

British Navy specialist

When he's at home, he likes to play dominoes (the Mexican version) or watch TV (preferably the History Channel, but sometimes also the cable news - even if he always gets into a rage afterwards). He has an extensive library and is currently reading a book about Captain Thomas Cochrane, who made the oceans unsafe during the Napoleonic Wars. When it comes to the history of the British Navy, Richards is a skilled specialist. (He even recommended that his biographer James Fox read Patrick O'Brian's historical novel "Master and Commander." Only then could he understand the contradicting feelings he had for Mick Jagger.)

He spends the day torpedoing his guitar techie Pierre de Beauport with faxes. Sometimes he asks him to get some information about Little Richard guitarist Rudy Richard, sometimes he asks him to look for an obscure reggae single. He always has new films sent by post - and when he strolls through his garden, he likes to play the acoustic guitar. "If my better half then says: 'That was pretty‘, I stick to it a little more intensely. "

He orders a vodka and soda. As the waiter leaves, Richards calls after him: "But do the double right away."
He recently had to grapple with a painful injury that he has not yet made public. It happened on July 4th at the Stones concert in Indianapolis. While the saxophone solo from "Miss You" was booming out of the speakers, Richards was just walking back on the catwalk to the main stage - and fell full on the face. “Someone threw a red straw hat on the dock, right in front of my feet. I kicked him aside - "Great, problem solved" - but the stupid thing comes back in a high arc and falls back at my feet. And suddenly 60,000 spectators witness how I crawl to the stage on all fours. I just thought: 'Dude, you should get your ass up quickly now. ‘"

Richards pushed the gas harder than anyone else

He puts his hand on the right chest. “I guess I cracked a rib. The doctors can't help you much either. I thought to myself: 'Shit, if you put this on the big bell now, the insurance agents will come right away and demand that the next gigs be canceled. ‘They can take me. Then I'd rather bite my lip. If you've been walking around on a stage for 50 years, you can stumble every now and then. ”It's the attitude of a man who has always liked to flirt with disasters. After all, he is blessed with a splendid Guardian Angel.

His career is paved with such anecdotes - like that of 1972, when the Boston mayor personally took him out of custody so that he could go on stage in the evening. Or how his offer to give a concert for the blind actually sparked him jumping off a seven-year prison sentence for heroin trafficking. (Pete Townshend once said that the Stones "have an uncanny knack for pulling your neck out of the noose at the last minute.")

The most ingenious hook that he hit on fate is right in front of me. That he survived at all really borders on a miracle. Richards pushed the gas more than anyone else - and yet steadfastly refuses to draw the appropriate conclusions. His zombie qualities were already celebrated in the 1970s when the New Musical Express named him the winner in the "Most Likely to Die" category - not just once, but ten years in a row. In the digital age, it is the Internet memes that continue to knit his legend. In a viral joke it says: “For every cigarette you smoke, God takes an hour of your life to give it to Keith Richards.” Or another: “We should start thinking about it like that That we will one day leave Keith Richards behind. "

For every cigarette you smoke, God takes an hour of your life to give to Keith Richards

I don't think there's any disagreement about what Richards left us with. The man has written some of the greatest ballads ("Ruby Tuesday", "Wild Horses"), some of the most subversive rockers ("Jumpin 'Jack Flash", "Midnight Rambler"), has developed a rhythm-oriented, drone-like guitar style, who almost dispenses with solos, but works with so many obscure tunings that even his musical role models skid. "Since I've known him, I've tried to act out things from him," says Buddy Guy. "I just can't do it."
With his low-hanging guitar, he not only became an icon of coolness, but also the prototype of the rock star par excellence - and not just for his own generation. A fact that was by no means hidden from him. "Boys, I'm so glad that you appreciate the hairstyle and the outfit," he once addressed the army of Keef copyists. "And believe me: I always took that as a compliment."

When he went on vacation to the Fiji Islands in February 2006, it happened anyway: His guardian angel was not vigilant for a brief moment. Richards had climbed a tree, slipped on a branch, and banged his head against the trunk two meters below. When he had survived two strokes two days later, he was immediately flown to Auckland, New Zealand, where a blood clot was removed from his brain.

Although he was supposed to take it easy for half a year, he was back on stage six weeks later. To this day he swallows Dilantin, which prevents cerebral hemorrhage, but also has side effects: forgetfulness is part of it, but also a lack of coordination in the physical motor skills. In the Stones Camp there was a well-founded fear that he might even fall off the stage during a performance. The critics also began to complain that a nervous Richards increasingly hit the wrong strings. “At the time, you could well be of the opinion that it was a little foggy,” says de Beauport today.
Even after the end of the tour, the fog hadn't lifted. “I think that the blow did more damage than we had initially hoped,” says Richards himself. “In any case, I was standing next to me for another year or two. It's almost like being in a state of reduced consciousness. "

Richards had fought the tragedies of his life with the bottle

The Stones paused for a long time. Richards put the guitar aside and began putting his memoirs on paper. At his home in Turks & Caicos, he sat with ghostwriter Fox for hundreds of hours to bring "Life" to life. Coming through the dark phases of his biography - the long-standing heroin addiction that ended in 1979, or the death of his two-month-old son in 1976 - "was very, very difficult for him," remembers Fox. “Whenever he was confronted with topics that haunt him to this day, it was visibly annoying to him. It was terrain on which we could only move very carefully. Keith had fought the tragedies with the bottle at the time. It gave him the opportunity to secure his own little world in which he could continue to be creative. I believe that he had to resort to various substances for a long time in order to push these things out of his life. "

“The book got to me more than I expected,” he says himself. “I can play two Stones shows a day and I feel great, but this endless digging that brings your whole past to light again pulls - oh, man. ”Even for Jagger, he found few friendly words in the book. He described a friendship that came under the wheels of money, egos and old resentments. For months there was complete radio silence between the two.

"Life" dominated the New York Times bestseller list and also won the Norman Mailer Award. The fact that his biggest hit of those years wasn't a musical contribution did not go unnoticed by Richards. "You make the best records you can for 50 years and suddenly - a book ..." With the Stones still on hold, the end of your career suddenly seemed to be within reach. He told his old friend Steve Jordan (who had already supported him with the X-Pensive Winos in the eighties) that he might want to withdraw completely from music. "I wondered if the book could be the grand finale," says Richards. “I just came to this ominous crossroads where you ask yourself: 'Do you have anything to say at all? And if so: Can you still encourage the boys to get back together? ‘Because without this gang I'm completely useless."

Under The Influence

Jordan persuaded him to take a look at New York's “One East” studio once a week - just to keep Richards from rusting. Jordan played drums, Richard played guitar - “and we had a lot of fun. Keith fished a few things out of his long-term musical memory - and the mail went off. ”In a way, they worked like Richards and Charlie Watts in earlier years: if the band was still a long time coming, the two would go ahead and take early versions from Jumpin 'Jack Flash or Street Fighting Man. Again, Richards took over the guitar, bass and piano parts - and "Crosseyed Heart" took shape.

Friends who saw him in the studio couldn't believe their eyes: Richards was more relaxed than seldom before. “In the middle of the night we ordered pizza for the whole team,” recalls Morgan Neville, who produced the documentary film “Keith Richards: Under The Influence” for Netflix. “Fifteen people squeezed into the small control room - and Keith was sitting on the sofa, smiling all over his face and couldn't stop laughing. He just wanted to be part of a group. "

Last year Richards published another book: "Gus und ich" is a children's book that Richards dedicated to his grandfather, who once recommended that he play the guitar. “He never pushed anything on me,” says Richards, who is now on his second vodka, “he only ever offered options. As in the case of the guitar that hung on the wall. He said, 'If you're big enough to touch it, you can keep it too. ‘"

What figure will I make as a grandfather?

Richards now has five grandchildren of his own (ages one to 19) whom he sees regularly. “It's certainly not the first question you ask yourself in life: 'What kind of character will I make as a grandfather?' But once that happens, it creates a relationship that can be extremely fruitful and inspiring at times can. There is a subtle difference between parents and grandparents. In my case, two of my grandchildren want nothing more than to go on tour with me. ”He laughs. "Well, maybe that wouldn't be the best idea."

One of the two is Orson, who at 15 looks like a young Keith - apart from his blond hair. “He spends a lot of time with me, but he still has to go to school. So right now we're content with just playing Scrabble - on the computer. That's the only thing I use the box for. I come across with the worst words I can think of - things like shithead or asshole. ”A round of ladies at the next table who bravely pretends not to overhear our conversation suddenly starts giggling.

Whenever he talks about his musical heroes, he still does it with the enthusiasm of a teenage fan. He is in fax contact with Chuck Berry and also has a direct line to Jerry Lee Lewis. Given that Berry, Little Richard and Fats Domino are already in their eighties (and Lewis is on his farewell tour), the Stones will soon be the last dinosaurs to admire on stage. "Don't tell me," says Richards and puts his hands over his face. “I never thought we would get to that point. But the time has come when one has to come to terms with this fact for better or for worse. Throughout my life there has always been a generation of musicians that existed before me. But at some point there will be a changing of the guard - and this time it will be my turn. "

Richards loves Jimmy Page - but not Led Zeppelin

We come to the "British Invasion" bands that came into the limelight in the wake of the Stones. "There were really only a few English rock'n'roll bands that I was interested in," he says. "I liked people like Johnny Kid and the Pirates - but they existed before I saw the inside of a studio. All the yeses and journeys always left me cold. "
He “loves” Jimmy Page but has never been a Led Zeppelin fan.“The band - with a John Bonham thundering down the highway in his monster truck: no thanks. Jimmy is a brilliant musician, but I always had the impression that the band was a bit hollow. ”In direct comparison, he prefers Robert Plant's solo recordings, especially the album with Alison Krauss. "When I heard that for the first time, I thought to myself: 'He's finally nailing it.‘ "

He's taking a break. “I don't want to come across as…” - he grins, but then continues - “but for my taste (Roger) Daltrey put on a bit of a show. And even if I love Pete Townshend: The Who has always remained a strange band for me. (Keith) Moon was an amazing drummer, but only when he played with Townshend. If you put him together with other musicians, he was a disaster. Although I don't have any problems with that either: Sometimes you can only do one trick - and still do your thing with confidence. "

He recently made headlines when he said “Sgt. Pepper "called" garbage "- and also put down" Their Satanic Majesties Request "because one had jumped on the psychedelic train as a free rider. He finds more positive words about Paul McCartney's current activities. “I like Paul. I also don't know if I could go it alone, what he can do. And as long as he enjoys it… Although there are a lot of people who seem to enjoy it. ”He shrugs his shoulders. "Personally, there is no kick for me."

Still motivated

The Stones are different. Richards leaves no doubt that they still have the kick. He was recently in London, where future activities were agreed. It cannot be ruled out that they will start their first album since “A Bigger Bang” after Christmas, but in any case after the South American tour that is scheduled for the beginning of the year. "I would like to put them in the studio in April, when we are still at the right operating temperature after the tour," he says. "The boys are not getting any younger either - although: Amazingly, they are getting better and better."

In the three years since the Stones toured again, Richards has been more involved with the band than in previous phases. So today he sits down with Jagger before every show to agree on the respective setlist. The fall of the trees in Fiji also forced him to forego a cherished habit before appearing: Coke is taboo, and even the alcohol only flows in civilian doses. “He was determined to follow through with this resolution,” says a person close to him. Richard himself reports that the new regime also helps him to regenerate faster after a gig. “Afterwards you are completely exhausted with cocaine,” he says. "In the meantime, after half an hour, I'm so fit again that I could uproot trees."

In “Life” he let us know that he only sleeps twice a week (“Which means that I must have lived at least three lives while awake”). He now goes to bed at one or two in the morning and has completely changed the rhythm of his long-term life. “Keith is always first and last in the rehearsal room,” says de Beauport. "Without him, absolutely nothing happens there."
The arthritis he's struggling with hasn't stopped at his hands either. Various guitar parts - such as the fills in "Honky Tonk Women" - have now been reduced to the central elements. In return, he has learned to play "Let's Spend Together" in open G-Tuning - which allows him to sing and play at the same time. “The elasticity of his hands doesn't necessarily reflect the musicality in his head,” says de Beauport. "If he scolds his gnarled fingers, that doesn't mean that his musical competence has suffered as a result."

For me, Mick Jagger is the best harmonica player

The end of the interim Ice Age also meant that Jagger and Richards spoke again in detail. One of their long conversations revolved around the question of how and to what extent the sound of the band could be opened up further. “For me, Mick Jagger is the best harmonica player I've ever heard - or at least on a par with Little Walter. He impresses me again and again. So I asked him: 'Why don't you try to sing the way you play the harmonica?' He didn't want to know anything about it and just said: 'These are two different shoes.' To which I said: 'Not true, because in the end In both cases you blow air through your mouth. 'When Mick sings, he basically follows the phrasing that we have immortalized on the record. If, on the other hand, he plays the harmonica, he lets his imagination run wild. In any case, we talk about such things - and of course we keep getting into each other's hair. But then we find a suitable room, put a few microphones in - and off you go. "

“I love studios,” he says, “even empty studios.” Richards sits on the studio sofa, enveloped in a thick cloud of smoke, staring through the glass of the control room at a couple of Gibson guitars lined up inside the studio . He is silent. Apart from an indefinable hum, no sound can be heard. “The silence is your canvas,” he says then. "You listen and think: 'My God, the possibilities are unlimited.."

We are in the Germano Studio in Manhattan, where Richards recorded most of his album. He's waiting here for a few people from his entourage who will take him to an interview with the radio chain iHeart. It has been a month since we talked in Connecticut - and Richards looks more wiry than before. He bobs his knee nervously and seems to bite his dark eyes into every question I ask him.

Records are for Richard's "acoustic paintings"

“For me, records are an acoustic painting,” he says, making a sweeping gesture towards the mixer. “Then let's see what is needed here. Let's first pull up the controls and bring the guitars to the fore. Then we put everything in the background and just take a swab of this one. ‘“ When you sit down at the mixer with all these little controls, it's almost like painting with different brushes. It's an activity that has fascinated me all my life. ”In the past, he could spend nights doing these experiments. “Street Fighting Man”, for example, made a living from recording the acoustic guitar with a cheap cassette recorder and then further alienating the sound. In another case he piled so many guitar layers on top of each other that the hypnotic intro of “Gimme Shelter” crystallized.

Many of his songs - “Before They Make Me Run”, for example - sweep individual beats or entire bar units under the rug. “The beat is an element that should be used in a playful way,” he says. “The beat is nothing static, nothing cast in cement like one, two, three, four. You should juggle it, move it, pick it up. ”And then he repeats the song of praise to spontaneity that he learned“ from an old Rasta ”:“ to think is to stink ”.
The time has come to drive to the iHeartRadio headquarters. Jane Rose, his longtime manager, a security man (an ex-cop he shares with Justin Bieber) and Tony Russell, his personal assistant since 1988, accompany him to an SUV that is waiting for him outside. A group of autograph hunters - mostly middle-aged men - are also waiting. "One for everyone, Keith, only one for everyone," calls out a guy and holds a Telecaster up in the air.

"I'm on the go," says Richards, rolling up his window. The driver presses the gas, but since the traffic is pretty slow at the moment, he doesn't get too far. When we have to stop at a traffic light shortly afterwards, they catch up with us and block several cars. “Watch your backs, brothas!” Calls out in the best London Rasta dialect. "It simply does not work. You will only be run over here - and in the end I will be sued for it. "
In the end he gives in and rolls down the window again. The breathless mob hits in covers of “Beggars Banquet” and “Bridges To Babylon” and also the inevitable Telecaster. He signs everything - except for a "tattoo" LP, on the cover of which Mick Jagger is shown. "I don't sign the motherfucker," he says, rolling up the window, even though the man is pleading desperately with him. “Wrong side,” he calls out to him. “I'm on the back. Hey guys, turn your brains on. ”He launches a cackling laugh.

As always, he ignored the 'No Smoking' sign

We arrive at iHeart and are shown into the “Green Room”, where the interview guests wait for their assignment. Richards is extremely talkative even before the interview. He turns to smoking and reminds us that it was mainly old TV series like “Perry Mason” that popularized the smoldering stick. “In my childhood, if you could get a drink in a pub and smoke a cigarette, you thought you were an adult. You just grow up with rituals like that. It's a habit - and therefore by no means physically dependent. "
Rose looks at him skeptically. "Okay," she says, "then tell me the difference between habit and dependence."
“Let's take coke,” he says. “It's not an addiction, just a habit. When that coke is all over, you piss off and fall asleep at some point. Maybe you will eat more than usual afterwards, but otherwise everything is as usual. "

As always, he ignored the NO SMOKING sign and puffs unabashedly to himself. He never compromises on this point. “When we were filming Shine A Light,” says Buddy Guy, “there were all kinds of politicians in the audience. And of course a lot of Secret Service people with them. I was preparing to perform with, Champagne & Reefer ’when Keith lit a joint that was as thick as my thumb. I said: 'Did you build a dummy especially for the song? ‘He just said:' I don’t have any dummies, man."
A producer comes in and prepares them for the topics to be addressed in the interview. He will be asked, among other things, how he developed the guitar sound of "Street Fighting Man", but also talk about other tracks ...

"... to transition from there to the new album," says Richards. "Okay, I'm in the picture."
“There is only one thing we would like to ask,” says the producer, “that you refrain from dropping the F-bomb. Please be so kind as to refrain from saying this. "

"I don’t fuck a lot," says Richards curtly

He is not a fan of excessive preparation, but wants to keep interviews as spontaneous as possible. "Actually, there is only one question I need to hear: are you guilty or not guilty?"
He is well aware of the public image he has of him. “I can understand how outsiders have to perceive me,” he says. “'Good old Keith… hits everything on his head and only ever does what he feels like doing. It made sense that it was this public opinion that gave me the freedom to actually live my life that way. It was the petty squares of this world who gave me the license to shit on the streets if necessary. "
A little later, in the presence of a studio audience, Richards will launch the well-known anecdotes: that he never knows when the cops will be in the doorway; how he wrote "Satisfaction" in his sleep; that his knees are still shaking when he thinks back on how he met Muddy Waters in 1964.

When he's back home in the evening, he'll read a historical novel or watch a documentary about World War II, but here, here in the studio, he's again the Keith we all love - the Keith from 1967, the one because of Pot is on trial and says straight to the judge's face: “We're not old men, we don't care about your petty morals.” Until this magical moment, Marianne Faithfull writes in her memoir, “Keith was in the shadows by Mick and Brian (Jones). It was his restlessness that made him a folk hero - and it was on this day that the legend began. Keith became a symbol of excess, of the pact with the devil. And the really crazy thing was that afterwards he himself lived as the legend intended. He managed to turn this whole story into a positive. "

"The words were not planned, but came spontaneously from my lips," says Richards about the day in court. “The whole situation was like surreal theater. But from that day on, I knew that not only I was going to the barricades against the establishment, not just the Stones, but our entire generation. The power I knew behind me was a lot more important than the jury in court. ”In the“ Green Room ”, Richards is still waiting for his assignment. He wriggles his legs, plays with his lighter and picks the foil off with his fingernails. The producer looks back in and announces that they will finally be ready in five minutes. Richards pulls on his snakeskin jacket, pats his thigh, and stands up.
"It's fuckin 'showtime."