It's the day after The Rolling Stones' final show in Australia. Keith Richards is somewhere in Brisbane. Or Surfer's Paradise. He's not quite sure.
"It's pissing with rain, " he chuckles down the line, so he figures it doesn't much matter.
TimeOut has scored an interview with the 71-year-old guitar legend, not through this promoters, but his book publishers. Richards has followed up his acclaimed candid autobiography Life with the rather gentler and rather shorter Gus & Me -- a kids' book about how his splendidly named grandfather Theodore Augustus Dupree gave the young Keith his first guitar.
Illustrated by daughter Theodora Richards, it's a very sentimental journey.
The audiobook version has Richard's wheezy tones -- which Johnny Depp adapted for Captain Jack Sparrow -- narrating while plucking some very flamenco notes out of that guitar.
So it's only polite we ask him about just how the onetime rock 'n' roll firebrand became a children's author ...
So what would Gus think, you think?
I kind of wonder about that. I think he would be kind of honoured. It's an homage to the old boy. He'd be chuffed absolutely. I guess I did it because I had just been delivered with a fifth grandchild and at the same time this idea came across the desk and the two things came together and my daughter kicked in with the illustrations. It's a family affair.
Er, shouldn't it be Gus & I?
I deliberately twist the grammar. Try Gimme Shelter ...
Ha. I can imagine the editors at your publishers worrying "who's going to tell him?"
Heh heh, yeah.
The illustrations suggest you were a good-looking kid.
Apparently, according to my daughter anyway.
Do your own grandkids get that what Grandad Keith does is a bit unusual?
I don't know. I mean to them I am perfectly normal. They are some of the few select people in the world who think so. They've grown up with it. They know no different. Bless them, they are all great kids and anyway, after being a grandfather five times it's all about trying to make grandfathers hip, give them a new image.
Well, if anyone can do that I am sure it's you. The flamenco guitar piece Gus was keen on in the book -- those aren't exactly blues chords.
But funnily enough there are some blue notes in there. Flamenco guitar does have some connections with the blues. I guess all guitar music does one way or another.
What would Gus think of a five-string Telecaster with an open tuning?
He'd probably want me to sit down and teach him how to play it; he was that kind of guy.
The only problem is if you give this book to a kid, then they will want a guitar ... and we know where that leads.
Well there is that. Maybe there should have been a free guitar for every copy. But it was really determined by the fact that my old grandad turned me on [to music] and I just thought I would do my bit here. If kids have got a grandfather, maybe your grandfather will turn you on and there's a lot to be learned from the old boys.
Talking of which, how was last night's show in Brisbane?
Fantastic. The show in Brisbane was a killer last night. Yeah, they've all been great. With this band, every show tends to get a little better. A little tighter. So far, par for the course. We are hoping in New Zealand we give you the topper.
You've brought former guitarist Mick Taylor on this tour and he was with the band in 1973 and played at Western Springs. You and Ronnie Wood have always had this integration of your guitars. How does it work with the three of you?
The thing is with Mr Taylor ... the fact is Ronnie has been playing a lot of Mick Taylor's licks. In a way it's a seamless thing. I let them swap Mick Taylor's licks between them and I just keep the rhythm going.
How is Mick enjoying it?
Very much. He is a great guy. Far more extroverted than he was when he was with the band in the first place. But great fun to work with and it's been a real pleasure for him to come along.
And a band can't have too many Micks.
Unless they're Irish. Heh heh.
Auckland is the last of the 50th anniversary run of dates. Is that a full stop?
It's impossible to say with this band, considering how long it's been going on. Everyone seems to be "where are we playing next?" so I'm letting it roll with these boys. I'll hang in with them.
Have you regained the momentum the tour lost due to is postponement?
For Mick [Jagger] it's been a funny year. We came all the way down to Australia and before we got to play we had to disappear so I have never been to Australia twice in one year. New Zealand I have, because I came back to have my head fixed.
You've said you left a bit of brain here.
I am going to inspect it. I am going to have a good look at it when I get back. Doctor Andrew Law -- he's a great guy. Anybody who can take the top of your head off in two hours and plop it back on ... you've got to say that is what I call genius.
We've been asking people of their memories of early Stones shows in New Zealand. What are yours?
I remember our first visit very well. We were with Roy Orbison and we were suddenly in Dunedin, which I am sure has modernised by now, but when we got there in 65 -- man, this was a cow town. It's such incredibly beautiful country but at the time -- Invercargill on a Sunday afternoon with nothing to do? That was a little test. What do they do here on Sundays? Absolutely nothing, pal.
There's a local legend that you and Mick and wrote Paint It, Black in Auckland.
If I looked at the timing that is absolutely quite possible. We were writing songs in hotel rooms all over the place and since we were there and then we'd be working on a song from one town to another, tightening it up and rewriting and I would give it a fine chance of it being true.
Well hopefully it's in the setlist for Auckland in Saturday then.
I never predict for sure. I leave it to Mick to choose the setlist because he is the guy who has to sing them all. We don't know definitely what we are going to do until the afternoon of the show. But it will be pretty much the same [as Australia]. I just hope it is going to be as hot and well-received as it has been over here. We are looking forward to Auckland.
Must be odd coming back here having spent that month hanging out here in 2006.
Actually I found it a great break. Because I couldn't do anything, couldn't go anywhere because half my head was shaved off and I was not about to go down to "what wig should I wear?" So I spent a very nice three or four weeks with Gloria [Poupard-Walbridge, Cotter House's landlady] ... and I just learned how to relax for a bit. You don't often get that time off.
So any thoughts on giving up the day job and concentrating on the writing career?
It's definitely a second string. I've got my band on the road and doing these little side things which are turning out to be received far more favourably than expected. I mean, I don't expect a Keith Richards children's book to really take off, but the damn thing has taken off big time. I'm amazed -- it's been a very good year, man.
You've complained in past years about still being pegged to the image people had of you in the 70s. Do you think these books have done something to change that?
Well I think people are who they are. I think people see things differently now than they did then. It's all part of growing up, man. You never stop. People think you are grown up. Everybody who is called a grown-up knows they are not really, they are just older than the person who said it.
There's probably a song in that.
I'm working on it.
Photo gallery: Satisfaction: History of Rolling Stones in NZ