Categories: Interviews

The cover may not matter, but Richard Lloyd does

Richard Lloyd, a founding member of Television, has been giving a little help to his friends the past 14 years, so much so he hasn’t had time to do a solo album.

That, plus the record industry hasn’t exactly been embracing inventive guitar-rock.

“I was working with Matthew Sweet,” Lloyd said recently. “I did five records with him; I did the Television reunion, which was a record and a yearlong tour. I did more work on the road with Matthew Sweet. There was the John Doe project; that was a record and a tour. Then I did a year and a half with the Health & Happiness Show, members of whom once upon a time had been my band, so that was closing the circle. Then I did some producing, some stuff overseas.

“What kept me from doing a solo album until now was the kind of ridiculous fate that people fall in when they expect their record company to come along like a knight in shining armor and say, ‘We love your music and we’re going to fund you. We’re going to manufacture your records, put them in front of people and make you as popular as Rice Krispies.’ They will say that, then they’ll drag it out for like a year and decide, ‘Well, I guess we’re not going to sign you after all.’ “

What made Lloyd’s “The Cover Doesn’t Matter” LP (Upsetter Music, Jan. 30) possible was the combination of digital technology allowing good recording to be moderately inexpensive and the Internet.

“The Internet allows for purely artist-driven distribution of their own artwork,” he said. “You can build a Web site like a little soap box; you get on it and wave your flag around. And it’s all around the world, people can log on and catch up with what you’re up to. In my case, I have pockets of fans all over the world, but they’re little pockets.

“I find all of this amazing. I have a 9-year-old. He doesn’t know a world without interactive CDs. He doesn’t know what a record is. It’s a phenomena. I was just thinking about it the other day; the world has changed, but because we’re in it, we don’t recognize it. It’s changing while we’re in it, but we don’t realize it’s different.”

Lloyd is pleasantly surprised with the reaction to “The Cover Doesn’t Matter,” his fourth solo LP and his first since 1987. Fans and critics are latching onto such timeless tracks as “The Knockdown,” “She Loves to Fly” and “Torn Shirt.”

“I’m excited that it’s getting such a favorable response, especially when you release an album so infrequently as I have done,” he said. “I just kind of released it and flinched, ready for the mud. But people seem to like it, which is fantastic.

“As a record, it’s the closest thing to how I actually sound live than pretty much anything I’ve done. There’s more lead guitar on it, more driven by that kind of energy than my previous studio recordings. I feel like a 14-year-old who jumps up and down on the bed until it breaks. It has that careening out of control excitement.

“When I was a teenager, I had a wish: to be a great guitarist and join the pantheon of greats to be admitted into the level of where the classic rock guitarists were. It’s been a very long time, but I’m still knocking on that door and I think I’m finally in a position where when someone compliments me about that, I can take it. ‘Yes, you’re right. I’m finally getting good. Look out!’ “

In many eyes, he has been there all along, thanks to his work with Television. Lloyd, lead singer-guitarist Tom Verlaine, bassist Richard Hell (later Fred Smith) and drummer Billy Ficca, Television – along with Patti Smith – was at the epicenter of the punk-rock movement at New York’s CBGB in the early 1970s.

Their 1977 Elektra debut album, “Marquee Moon,” failed to chart in America and sold poorly, but it was at the top of many critics’ Top 10 lists that year.

“Marquee Moon,” Television’s brooding mixture of psychedelic-era Moby Grape and the folk-rock of Fairport Convention, still remains a pivotal album. It was included in VH1’s recent countdown of the Top 100 LPs of all time. There’s even a Television reunion planned at an All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in England this spring.

Lloyd sees little difference between now and the advent of Television.

“I just think it’s the same as it ever was,” he said. “The music business is like Kellogg’s; they’re designed to sell flakes that you eat and then you shit out two weeks later. They don’t give a crap about music; it’s commerce. And that’s my unfortunate dilemma, that I never went to business school and never got that savvy.

“It was the same thing when Television first came up. We couldn’t get signed; nobody was interested in that. There was disco at the time, and there was corporate rock, like mega-bands with hair. It’s the same thing now – it’s boy bands and chicks with hair. But some people are always going to enjoy good music.”

Whether Lloyd can attract Television watchers is a different matter.

“I’m never going to be the translucent poetic lyricist that Tom Verlaine is,” he said. “I don’t have that gift. I have different gifts. I’m much more center, and I think my appeal would be to a much more core rock ‘n’ roll audience than Television’s.

“For better or for worse, my association with Television prevents some of that audience from me reaching them. Television people buy a Richard Lloyd record and they’re disappointed because it’s too mainstream, and the mainstream people don’t buy it because they think they don’t understand that it’s not left-of-center quirky. So I’m caught in there.”

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: ” ’12 x 5′ by the Rolling Stones, which was their second record. That was a great first record for me to buy. Back then, there were the Beatles and the Stones; there were two camps, and I liked both. The Beatles were liked too much by too many people, so I had to rebel and like the Stones. The Stones were a much more visceral down and dirty band. I can remember taking off ‘The Little Engine That Could’ and putting ’12 by 5′ on my turntable. How do you like that for juxtaposition?”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “Hendrix, probably, at the Singer Bowl. I used to see the Rolling Stones or the Beatles announced, but I never went because there was too much pandemonium. I also went to Woodstock. My dad drove me and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll see ya later, man.’ I went up over the hill with all the rest of the insects.”

THE LAST CD I BOUGHT: “I got Ravi Shankar’s ‘Sounds of India,’ the one where he explains the tempos of the ragas.”

BWF (before we forget): Fans can find Richard Lloyd on the Web @ www.richardlloyd.com. … The Richard Lloyd album discography – “Alchemy” (Elektra, 1979); “Field of Fire” (Grand Slamm, 1985); “Real Time” (1987, live); “The Cover Doesn’t Matter” (Upsetter Music, 2001). … Upcoming Richard Lloyd tour date – Feb. 24, New Haven, Conn., Tune Inn.

Gerry Galipault @https://twitter.com/Pauseandplay

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

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