Richards, who will turn 75 next week (December 18), was speaking ahead of the North American leg of the veteran band’s ‘No Filter’ tour, which kicks off in Miami in April 2019.
Richards has now told Rolling Stone that he’s been curbing his drinking for “about a year now”, revealing that he “pulled the plug on it. I got fed up with it.” While the guitarist conceded that still has “a glass of wine occasionally, and a beer,” he said that it was the right time to make the change.
“It was time to quit,” Richards said. “Just like all the other stuff.” Asked if it had been an adjustment, he quipped: “You can call it that, yeah. But I don’t notice any difference really – except for I don’t drink. I wasn’t feeling [right]. I’ve done it. I didn’t want that anymore.”
Richards’ bandmate Ronnie Wood was also sitting in on the interview, and said that he’d noticed changes in Richards since he cut back on his drinking.
“He’s a pleasure to work with. Much more mellow,” Wood observed. “He’s open to more ideas, whereas before I’d kind of grit my teeth and go, ‘He’s gonna give me some shit for saying this.’ Now, he’ll say, ‘That’s cool, man.’ ”
“It just wasn’t working anymore, you know,” Wood added about Richards’ drinking. “I think the Keith that we used to know and love had this cutoff point where if he had one more, he’d go over the top and he’d be nasty. The cutoff point became shorter and shorter, you know, and he realised that.
“I was lucky to get on the wagon when I did and was ready for all the stuff that came at me, cancer and all that,” he continued about his 2010 sobriety and 2018 cancer scare. “Luckily it was all in one place and I had it removed. I got my life again – I got a second chance and my little girls and my whole life now is so much better. I think Keith is seeing that kind of thing as well. And then he went on to the beers for a while, he cut down slowly, and now, you know, good luck to him. If he’s gonna keep it up, I’ll be there, full support.”
Richards added that “it was interesting to play sober,” while Wood noted: “We’re weaving [guitar parts] a lot more conscientiously now. We’re much more aware of the gaps and the spaces between. We’re in our seventies, but we’re still rocking like we’re 40-year-olds, you know?”
Richards spoke about the future of The Rolling Stones in a live setting last month, suggesting that their next batch of ‘No Filter’ tour dates could be the beginning of the end for the band’s live commitments.