Kathy Valentines Light Years

“I’ve never had any desire to be a ‘solo artist’ and I still don’t. But I enjoyed this process so much that I’ll probably do more records like this.”

That’s how Kathy Valentine answers the familiar “What took you so long?” about the release of her solo debut. The Go-Go’s bassist played guitar, sang lead and backup vocals, and produced the rocking Light Years [All for One]. She was joined in the studio by engineer (and ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist) Gilby Clarke, Blondie drummer Clem Burke, and engineer/bassist Mark “Muddy” Dutton—with a cameo by none other than Ace Frehley! The catchy melodies and harmonies of Light Years will appeal to Valentine’s longtime followers, but the great guitar tones, driving riffs, and smoking solos will likely earn her a whole gaggle of new fans.

What was the recording process like for Light Years?
I did most of the basics at Gilby Clarke’s studio. I would show the songs to the musicians, and we would run them down a couple of times, and then cut the rhythm tracks. Most of the overdubs were done in my home studio.

Did you demo the songs at home first?
Not really. I worked them out with my acoustic guitar, a Sony cassette recorder, a pad, and a pencil [laughs]. For the more rocking tunes, I’d switch to electric guitar pretty early in the process because it affects my rhythm and my strumming. When I got to Gilby’s studio, I had a pretty good idea of the arrangements, but I purposely chose musicians whose ideas I liked, so I was always open to their suggestions.

How did you get the guitar tones on “Creation Myth”?
The main tone is my ’64 Strat into the 4x10 Bassman. For the part in the verses where one guitar answers the other, Mark [Dutton] manipulated one guitar tone with plug-ins so it doesn’t really sound like a guitar anymore.

What about the harmonized slide parts in “Getting By”?
I recorded those at home on my Digi 001 setup. That’s my Strat into a little Gibson Skylark amp. That amp is incredible.

Go-Go’s fans might be surprised to hear all the guitar solos on this record.
That’s one of the ironies of my career. I’m known as a bassist, but I actually think I’m a better guitarist. The solo to “Retouch Me” was done in a few takes at home. I tend to stick with a set melodic part when I’m in a major key, whereas with a blues-based solo, I can just throw down a bunch of takes and pick the best one. I’m not as good at soloing in major keys, and one of my goals as a guitarist is to get better at that.

Describe the difference in vibe between cutting a solo at Gilby’s and at your home studio.
The solos were so much easier to do at home! Gilby is incredibly supportive and a good friend, but I found it a little intimidating to solo in front of someone who plays so well. I play better when the person recording me can’t just plug in and do the solo himself!