Richard Lloyd is the former/sometimes guitarist for the seminal NYC art-punk outfit Television, and later for Cleveland, OH's Rocket from the Tombs. As an American punk icon Lloyd played a first-hand role in shaping the course of evolution for art-punk on this side of the Atlantic, but his solo career has remained in obscurity.
He is best described as eccentric man, and if you ask him about the songs he writes hell talk your ear off with allegories about dreams, monks and mans need to face his inner animals. Hes not quite the austere art rock figure from the 70s that I had envisioned before talking with him about his forthcoming album of Jimi Hendrix covers, called The Jamie Neverts Story.
Lloyd is actually one of the more engaging and not to mention memorable interviews I've done in a while. Even though his talk of religion and philosophy went a bit over my head at times, he was never heavy handed. I even looked up things like Antinomian, Malimath and Velvert Turner when I hung up the phone. I reached for the Dictionary not because he made me feel dumb, but because his level of enthusiasm was that infectious.
Lloyd plays Smiths Olde Bar on Tues., Aug. 5 at 9 p.m. fronting the Sufimonkey Trio (featuring fellow Television alum, drummer Billy Ficca). He'll also do a meet-and-greet at Criminal Records before the show at or around 7 p.m.
Richard Lloyd: I usually allow 20-30 minutes for interviews by telephone but my record company guy screwed up and scheduled someone else for 6:15 p.m., which is ridiculous, I know, But what are you gonna do?
Chad Radford: It will just make me ask better questions.
I hope so, but I am verbose so youll have to shut me up.
I guess that means theres no opening act. We have two hours of material, so theres no problem with that.
Is it a comprehensive set spanning your whole career? Are we going to hear some Television songs?
Well, although Billy Ficca of Television is drumming and a guy named Keith Hartell from a band, called True Love is the bass player, we are traveling as a trio, called the Sufimonkey trio. My next record, which will be out early next year is a Hendrix cover album. Ten Hendrix covers, because I knew Jimi through my best friend when I was a teenager, Velvert Turner. We became friends because I was the only one who believed him when he said that he knew Jimi Hendrix. We had a whole number of experiences. Jimis only actually authenticated guitar student was Velvert. He acted as a mentor to Velvert and Velvert asked him if he could show me what Jimi was teaching him. He would go to Jimis house and Jimi would teach him some songs and theory. Jimi used a giant mirror. He was left handed and he strung the guitar upside down, but if you looked in the mirror it looked right.
In turn Velvert would come to my house and teach me, so I am a secondhand direct student of Hendrix, and those songs are meant to be played as a trio. Were also doing songs from my newest record, called The Radiant Monkey, which are also designed to be played as a trio. We have worked in a couple of Television songs, just for fun. I dont know if were going to play them. A lot of Television's songs are like jigsaw puzzle pieces, meaning that the two guitars work together. I wouldn't want to try them with just one guitar, and I don't think Tom would either. But there are a few songs where I play lead, and if I can remember the lyrics, we'll do 'em ... Maybe.
Then theres Field of Fire, which is a record I did in 85 and some other stuff, which makes it a very full evening. And I dont give much time between songs because weve got so much to do. Otherwise I would have to be like Bruce Springsteen and have an intermission and do a three-hour show.
What television songs are you doing?
Im not telling you, because I might change. And you have no right to know unless youre there. I wont tell you which Hendrix songs Im playing either. In fact I wont tell you anything. I havent spoken to you at all. This is all in your imagination. Plop plop fizz, fizz. Like an Alka-Seltzer I have dropped into your mind and am bubbling up all of these things that you think you are taking with me about on the phone, but actually you are not. I haven't said a thing...
Thats pretty intense, man.
Pretty intense, yes. Well I am what some might call a quixotic man, or a hermit or an alchemist. I dont want to use a threadbare word, but when people used to say do you believe in god I would say no, because I Gno Im not agnostic, Im Gnostic. So anyway that takes care of all the religion that we need to talk about. Read Religere, its from the Latin and it means to reconnect. Music and religion are very closely aligned. Look at all of the rockers who have gone on to be preachers, like Al Green, Little Richard and James Brown and so on. Like Syd Barrett or Rocky Erikson, Im somewhere in between.
Ive been studying the cover art for The Radiant Monkey
Thats the depraved monkey on the front cover. On the back is the radiant monkey.
Its like Nietzsche. Its Antinomian The trident that hes holding is not the devils trident, its the Indian god Shivas trident. And all of the other depravities you will find in man if you strip him of his social constraints. The idea is that man, instead of trying to fly off like an angel, in which case he ends up like Jimmy Swaggart or something, it ends up in disgrace. Youre trying to flee your demons but you cant. You have to turn and face them. Theyre like zoo animals and you have to face your inner animals and head toward them.
There was a group of French poets, Verlaine was one of them not Tom Verlaine, but the real Verlaine .Baudelaire and Rimbaudt. They had the concept that the devil stood very close to the gates of heaven in order to pose legal questions to the big fat souls on their way in. St. Peter would say welcome, and Satan was a lawyer and he would catch them and say no, they belong to me." Do you ever watch football?
Do you know what a spin move is?
Well youre supposed to go directly toward the devil and do an end run spin move at the last minute. There was a Sufi monk who was doing an end run spin move, and he was supposed to go to heaven but there was a huge crowd blocking the way. He went to the side and there was a door marked humility and when has done with that, there was still a huge line, as though it were a hit movie. So then he saw a sign that said the way of blame. So he went that way and made himself the object of derision and scorn, like Jesus Christ. He was the original Malimath. Then he sauntered right in because nobody else wanted to go that route. It was too hard.
Man kind is in a juncture. Hes in his puberty and if he doesnt eliminate tribalism and face his own inner animals and create his own Noahs ark and face them with affection and compassion he wont turn into the Radiant Monkey, who reveals his heart, which is full of compassion. Thats the Radiant Monky philosophy in a nutshell.
I had Punk Magazines John Holstrom render it under my guidance. Ive heard people say its the worst cover ever done. Its shocking, but its meant to shock.
Theres a song on the album, called Amnesia.
I wrote that originally for Rocket from the Tombs. But they are so slow that I figured I had better do a version myself before I lose this great song.
Tell me about the concept behind it.
The concept is that we come into this world pure and then were sullied by all of this crap. Its like asking whats the good part about having Alzheimer's? Youre always meeting new people... The lyric in the songs is here I sit like an infant under the bright blue sky and youre my best friend, otherwise Id remember all the trouble Im in. You know about being stuck in the reform school, rat ass of a planet.
I was thinking about it in terms of being autobiographical.
Of course it is. Anything else would be plagiarism. There was a Taoist in the 4th century AD who interpreted dreams. Somebody came to him and said what if I brought you a fake dream... Something that I had made up? And the Taoist said I would interpret it. Because everything is a dream.
Now were at 6:15 and Im feeling crushed because I want to talk to you longer, but what the hell can I do? Can you call me back at 6:45 and continue?
If thats cool with you
Yeah, fine. Bye bye.
Hey Chad, where were we?
I was afraid you were going to ask that We were talking about a 4th Century AD Toaist, dreams and the song Amnesia.
Oh yeah, the autobiographicalness. I remember not being born, but very shortly thereafter and I remember how I looked up at the world and thats in quotation marks, and I wondered if I had made a wrong turn somewhere.
What did you decide?
I didnt decide anything but I could remember that I came from a place of much greater freedom and I spent my first couple of years engaged in what might be called meditation. Trying to regain a recovery of that connection, but there were all sorts of things in the way, like breathing and heartbeat. Theyre very loud and they drown out the delicate signals. Thats why Yogis learn to stop their own heartbeat, so they can concentrate.
Do you work as a teacher or a philosophy professor?
I teach guitar and I write a monthly column for Guitar World Magazine, which is the worlds biggest selling guitar magazine and Ive been doing so for over a year. Its an instructional column. Your average reader wouldnt get anything out of it. I think of it as a sacred debt to repay all of the wisdom that was passed down to me freely.
Youre referring to your Jimi Hendrix experience.
Yeah, the album will be called The Jamie Neverts Story. That was Velvert Turners any my secret name for Jimi so that all of the neighborhood kids wouldnt follow us when we went to see him. Everybody was always hanging around and saying when do we get to go see Jimi? So we called him Jamie. But the kids didnt buy it so we made it up since were never going to tell them the truth. So it was like never and Velvert.
It's a long story that's talked about more in the liner notes, but to my knowledge, I'm the only person whom Jimi ever punched in the face three times, and cried in his hands while apologizing.
Why did he punch you three times?
I tried to cheer him up.
Why were you trying to cheer him up?
Its a long story. He waited an hour to apologize while crying in my hands
What is it that you have to offer with these songs that they dont already convey?
I have a pretty unique perspective of his wide emotional range. I have a measure of his strength and of his compassion and love.
(Photo by Godlis)
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