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Saturday, 24 March 2012

L.A.Whoa Man! An Interview with Glen Laughlin of The Cherry Bluestorms.

It’s always rewarding to interview a fellow Stone Roses fan, but to find such a sweet and sexily surreal one all the way in Los Angeles was something of a pleasant surprise! 

Glen Laughlin of the LA-Based band The Cherry Bluestorms kindly took some time out to answer my questions which reveal much more than the details of their forthcoming album ‘Bad Penny Opera’ which is due for release this year.  

Here’s the interview...

1.    When you take aim with your peashooter/pellet gun/sniper rifle, you’re aiming at whom?

a.    I’m not into real violence, but I’m happy to indulge in a bit of the fantastic sort.  I suppose my first choice would be Michelle Bachmann, because I don’t suffer fools gladly.

2.    Where do you go when it all gets too much?

a.    I suppose that’s a time I tend to stay home.  Otherwise, perhaps a turn at Descanso Gardens, northeast of L.A.

3.    Is bedtime more half nine with a half read paper or more half four with fully red eyes?

a.    Definitely more half four with fully red eyes!

4.    What do you do with any ‘you’ time?

a.    I’m quite a reader in spurts.  If I’m not reading or watching a film (no TV), I’m probably plunking away at a guitar.

5.    Who would be your dream collaborator?

a.    I should clarify that Deborah is real, so she’s excluded, but otherwise... possibly Andy Bell of Ride/Hurricane #1/Oasis.

6.    What’s the last gig/concert you went to?

a.    I saw The Horse Soldiers a couple of weeks ago.  The lead singer is also the singer in The Furys, a band I used to be in that is getting back together.

7.    What’s the best / your favourite music video?

a.    If you mean in the modern/MTV sense, off the top of my head I’d say “The Devil You Know” by Jesus Jones.  But I’m a sucker for the promo films The Beatles and The Kinks did in the ‘60’s.

8.    If you were a musical instrument what would you be?

a.    Maybe a reed organ; I’m too much of a “contain multitudes” sort of person to imagine being a monophonic instrument.  I like the slight stately yet homely, warm yet melancholic qualities of the instrument.  I think it might suit my Dickensian conceits.

9.    What’s ‘love at first sight’ all about then?

a.    I think we all “become”, we all change and we have unexpected chemical reactions to others, who change and become in their turn.  Love can have so many different meanings and manifestations.  I know from personal experience that that chemical reaction can be quite instantaneous, quite violently passionate and surprisingly long-lasting.  But I sometimes love other people too.

10. Where do you draw your inspiration from?

a.    Over time, my tendency has shifted from the specific, for example a stationary image in my mind or a literary idea, to more general things that come of the grab  bag of things I’ve read, thought, seen or experienced in my life.  They all sort of connect and inform each other.  I’m always the last to know and then I write about it.

11. Care to share any regrets, missed opportunities or things that might’ve been?

a.    I don’t have a lot of regrets in the sense that I would actually change something if I could.  The things I’d be tempted to change seem to lead quite quickly in my imagination to a less desirable present.

12. Were/are you aware of your escalating popularity?

a.    I certainly am.  I notice that for some reason, the more money I owe, the more popular I become!

13. Will your past come back to haunt you or will karma be kind?

a.    Funny you should ask.  As it happens, I’ve heard from a number of people from my distant past in the relatively recent past.  In all cases it’s been really good, even where I thought it might be uncomfortable.  I don’t know about karma, or what I deserve, but I have no complaints.

14. Where do you most enjoy playing live?

a.    I think I enjoy anyplace we’re playing and singing well, particularly if the on stage sound is good.  It’s great when the audience is really digging it, but I’m usually focused on what I’m doing, rather than what I think someone else thinks of what I’m doing.

15. Why? What's your biggest why question that mystifies you most?

a.    Why do birds suddenly appear every time you are near?

16. What influences your sound above all else?

a.    If by sound you mean the overall sound of the band, it’s a combination of innate abilities and styles, along with personal tastes, which are connected to the records we like whose sounds are applicable to ours.  For example, I love The Beatles and I love The Stone Roses.

I have similar guitars and amps, so my sound is often probably not dissimilar to much of what those bands do.  I also love Robert Wyatt, but it’s less often that sounds and approaches he uses are applicable to what The Cherry Bluestorms do.

17. Where do you sit in the grand scheme of things?

a.    Fourth row centre.

18. Why the name (not your christened name of course)?

a.    There is an obscure Be Bop Deluxe track called “Futurist Manifesto”.  It has a bunch of cut-up random phrases, one of which is, “Watch those royal and cherry bluestorms”.  That phrase stuck in my head for a very long time.  It seemed suitable for a somewhat psychedelic Mod-ish band.  I’m not sure we’re exactly that, but we have the same tailor.

19. Who’s the most likely to go solo or crazy?

a.    Deborah and I both have solo material, some of which is pretty removed from The Cherry Bluestorms.  Deborah already has a really great solo album and we’re already working on another.  No sign of insanity yet, but it is a certainty that we’ll both release solo albums.  No thoughts of parting company with TCB as far as I know! 

20. Any choice epitaphs or famous last words for which you’d like to be quoted?

a.    My head seems pretty big next to the small chip on my shoulder, but I’m really pretty nice.

21. What makes you better than everyone else?

a.    There is no way to gracefully countenance this question!  I certainly don’t think we’re better than everyone else, but I sometimes feel our music has been taken no more seriously than music I find to be inferior.

There may be no accounting for taste, but I think there’s more to it than mere personal preference.  Credit where credit’s due, even if it’s not your cup o’ tea, even if you mix metaphors!

22. When do you plan to take over the world?
a.    I guess you didn’t get the memo…

23. What changes can we expect with your latest outing?

a.    Bad Penny Opera is an even more overt tip o’ the hat to our ‘60’s influences.  It has more keyboards and they are in more featured roles.  I think that despite its own eclecticism, it still is somehow more cohesive than Transit of Venus.  I also do more singing along with Deborah.

24. Are you all agreed/in control of the formats for your releases?

a.    Yes!

25. Wish you were doing anything else with your time other than music?
a.    Music is my main passion, but I wouldn’t mind having more time to read.

26. Who were your heroes as a teenager?

a.    When I was a child I was into The Beatles, The Kinks, The Who, The Small Faces, The Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Spirit, The Rolling Stones, Donovan, Jimi Hendrix, Cream, The Hollies, The Lovin’ Spoonful and Syd Barrett.  As a teenager I got into the art rock and British folk-rock thing as well.

I was into Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span, The Strawbs, Nick Drake, Genesis, Be Bop Deluxe, Brian Eno and Pink Floyd.  When the punk thing hit, I got into XTC, The Skids, Fingerprintz, Magazine and Elvis Costello. 

27. What do you think of the paparazzi?

a.    I don’t think much of them or about them, but I certainly think people should get a life.

28. What music are you listening to of late?

a.    Unfortunately, I’m often working on my own music or the music of clients I’m producing, so I don’t stay as current as I used to do.  Lately I’ve been playing with one of the bands I’ve produced, “Big Shot Reub & the Reloaders”.  They are a blues based band and so I’ve been going back and listening to Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac, Otis Rush, early Jeff Beck Group and other stuff I hadn’t heard for years.  It’s a real education!

29. Any message for underachieving or odds-facing musicians out there?

a.    “Advice” is such a loaded word, as it assumes one is in a position to give it.  But I’ll stick my neck out.  It’s clear that the music business is in a serious period of transition, as is the place music holds in the general public’s heart. 

What doesn’t change is that some people are passionate about listening to music and/or playing it.  If music turns you on, then keep at it and become a better listener and a better writer or performer.  Ultimately, it’s the fulfilment that one achieves by expressing one’s inexpressible individual aesthetic; by placing meaning on something inherently non-representational, that one strives for.

There is no clock running on that and no measure of popularity that can diminish it.  It’s a lifelong commitment to a calling.  There is nothing more worth doing in this life than to appreciate and create beauty.  

30. Any career highs or lows you care to share?

a.    Flying in a 6-seater airplane over the coast of Oregon with Dewey Martin’s Buffalo Springfield Again was certainly a thrill.

31. Do you enjoy playing live or are you more at home in a studio?

a.    I think of live dates as fun, but also as the place where all of the cylinders are firing at once.  “Live” is to live.  I’m very happy to be recording or writing and if I had to choose I’d write and record.  But the visceral nature of a live show, to say nothing of the instant gratification, makes it all seem real. 

32. Your career defining dream moment would/will be what?

a.    I suppose everyone would like the validation of a real record deal or a hit record.  I’m no different, but I can say that seeing a review or a comment from someone who really seems to have got what I tried to say musically makes me really happy and grateful.

33. Know of any upcoming bands that are destined for greatness?

a.    The Anydays!

34. How important do you feel visuals are in relation to music?

a.    I always quote my friend Larry who says, “People listen with their eyes”.  Of course as time goes on, as technologies expand and as attention spans diminish, visuals become more important.  I always thought that a band’s aesthetic sensibilities tended to show themselves visually as well as aurally.  It’s at least another opportunity to be creative about getting your message across.

35. What’s been the highlight of your year?

a.    My neighbour moved away!

36. I’m sure you’ve done a few but which gig has been your best?

a.    The Cherry Bluestorms played a gig in San Diego awhile back.  Although the audience didn’t seem especially thrilled, for me it seemed to be the most perfect show we ever did.  The look of the band, the sound and the performance itself was as close as we’ve ever got.  So it was a highlight that was perhaps invisible to most.

37. Any forthcoming plans for you / the band?

a.    We have an alternate version of Fear of Gravity from Transit of Venus that will be available very soon.  We have a new album, Bad Penny Opera that will be out in about a month.  We will be in England promoting the record in May.  We are working on Deborah’s second solo album.  We already demoed all of the tracks for our third album, some of which we’ll be playing in our sets in England.  We are also working on videos for two songs from BPO.  Other than that…

38. Is there more pressure playing live with a band than there is playing solo?

a.    I think there is more pressure playing solo.  It’s like being naked!

39. Are you unlucky in love and if so, why?

a.    I’ve certainly been unlucky at times, like most.  But as they say, he who laughs last…

40. Best song, movie or album ever?

a.    Best song: Hey Jude; best movie: Funny Bones; best album: Kink Kronikles.

41. Where did you sleep last night?

a.    Home.

42. What’s your secret vice... what are you a sucker for?

a.    It’s no secret that I drink a lot of Cokes.  But I don’t use a straw, so I don’t suck.

43. What makes the world go round?

a.    How can you mend a broken heart?  How can you stop the sun from shining?  

44. Where’s the place to be?

a.    Right here, right now.

45. What’s your weak point?

a.    I can’t say no to interviewers!

46. Which instrument does it for you most?

a.    My ’66 Rickenbacker that I bought from David Swanson of The Pop.

47. What inspired the LP title?

a.    It was a small leap from the cyclical idea of a bad penny always returning, to a corruption of Three Penny Opera, which is based on a favourite of mine, The Beggar’s Opera.

48. Are you a good dancer and can you prove it?

a.    I’m a fine dancer, but not as good as the Supernatural Anaesthetist (Genesis track).

49. What kinds of music (if any) do you dislike the most?

a.    It would be a toss between what’s now called Country music but isn’t and rap, but fortunately Kenny G. came along to break the tie.

50. Where will you retire to when you're tired of comeback concerts?

a.    I think Cornwall or Devon would be my preference, but I’m not sure I could stay out of the city for long.  It might have to be London, or half London and half L.A.

51. When will the world end?

a.    You missed it!

52. Who’s the main driving force or do you work as a team?

a.    Honestly, it’s “yes” to both.  I tend to be the instigator, if that’s what you mean by “driving force”.  I’m obsessed with music.  But Deborah and I definitely work as a team.  Mark just joined the band, so his role is still in the making. 

53. How important are the single/album charts?

a.    There are single and album charts?!

54. What revival would you most like to witness?

a.    Charles Laughton’s!

55. Which era would you have been born in ideally?

a.    I suppose it would have been great to have been born just a bit earlier so I could have experienced the mid-to-late 1960’s as an adult.  Otherwise, Dickens’ London would have been frightful and wonderful.

56. Are exercise and diet important to you?

a.    If Deborah says so!

57. If you could protect and save 1 thing in the world, what would it be?

a.    The opening chord to Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere by The Who.

58. Who’s the most gifted person alive today?

a.    Paul McCartney.

59. Have you got any famous relatives and if so, who are they?

a.    Uh, no.

60. Does complaining accomplish anything?

a.    Apparently not.

61. Whose autograph do you have and why?

a.    Bill Nelson of Be Bop Deluxe, ‘because I asked him for it.

62. Which fictional character would you most like to be and why?

a.    P.Smith, cause he dresses so well.

63. Which rules... the digital age or the vinyl/cassette age?

a.    I like digital for the stuff digital is good at and analogue for the stuff analogue is good for, but if you are asking about an “age”, then thus far vinyl and tape have it all over digital.  It’s an unfair comparison though, because digital is in its infancy.

64. Which musical style should become extinct first?

a.    Country music isn’t or rap

65. Do you have any tragically unused band names you’d like to use?

a.    David Swanson and I briefly tried to form The Legendary Obstacles.

66. Was it easy becoming who you are today?

a.    Are you kidding?

67. What’s the biggest myth about stardom?

a.    The ones the stars believe.

68. Have you ever been conned into or out of something?

a.    Yes.  But I do some interviews anyway!

69. Do politics have a place in music?

a.    Music is one of our sets of languages.  No subject is off limits, but I think that generally, since art in the fine art sense is “interpretive”, the more literal the message being proffered the less “artistic” it is.

Here are The Cherry Blustorms in action: