Richard Lloyd interview

I saw that you produce educational videos. Is it important to pass on your knowledge? 

"The educational videos are actually connected to columns I do for a magazine called "Guitar World". I do feel a debt from those who taught me, and also from my own deep studies of music and of the instrument which is a guitar, that I need to mentor younger guitarists as best I can. Anyone can put out a shingle announcing themselves as a guitar teacher, but they rarely have a deep understanding of musical law or of the architecture of the musical instrument that they profess to teach, in this case, the guitar, which is an extraordinarily profound instrument, and deeply connected to the deepest laws of music. I feel too many guitarists are self-centered and juvenile in their approach, so in my own curriculum it doesn't matter how good a guitarist I am, only what I am able to impart that may help others to move towards mastery of their instrument and a spiritual understanding of the laws of music. It's a bit like the medieval guilds, which hardly exist anymore. I feel a responsibility to pass on what understanding I have built up, and of course, I better do it before this body expires, because nobody lasts forever. 


How would you define the Richard Lloyd style? 

"When I was younger, along with my teenage best friend Velvert Turner, who was a direct protégé and student of Jimi Hendrix, from whom I learned a great deal -- also having met many of the great classical rock guitarists of the late 60s. As well as Jimi Hendrix, whose influence I always hid, I learned a great deal of the stylings of Jimmy Page, not the Led Zeppelin songs, but the way he practiced and the disciplines that he used, through his longtime guitar technician. But I always avoided learning the "great new solos" that my friends could learn off of records, because I wanted to develop my own style -- which is a classic rock lead guitar style with a great deal of melodic content as well as strong angular turns and phrasings. So my style is quite my own. It's probably the reason that I don't get hired as a session guitarist so much, because my personal style is so strong, and session players, although they can be very good, do not steal the stage from the singer. That's why certain session men and upon thousands of records -- they are like human jukeboxes, but they don't stick out with a strong personal style. For better or worse, I do have a very strong personal style, and when I am asked if I play the guitar I often say no, that I play the electricity, and the guitar is the instrument that plays me, not the other way around. 


Where does your style come from, which musicians have inspired you? 

"As I said, my best friend Velvert and I studied under Jimi Hendrix, but I always mentioned Jeff Beck and Buddy Guy as the three guitarists I would probably mention -- but there's so many more. My musical tastes were very eclectic, and after the English invasion I spent a long time listening to blues and jazz and classical music as well. I think I am also influenced by Indian music and Ravi Shankar-- even though he plays a sitar, I consider him one of the world's great guitarists, and I used to know many of his ragas by heart. Mike Bloomfield, Albert King, Freddie King, Albert Collins, Magic Sam, John Lee Hooker, the list goes on and on. Then there are jazz guitarists I love, like Django Reinhard, Wes Montgomery, John McLachlan with Miles Davis, and I actually was influenced by a flute player named Charles Lloyd, whose records I loved. I listen to such a wide band of musical styles -- anything with a lead guitar solo on I would wear the grooves out on, but I also love the Rolling Stones, and one of the first records I ever bought was 12 X 5, and I've probably listened to 2120 S. Michigan Ave, which is an instrumental with harmonica thousands of times, as well as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, Little Walter. Man, if I start listing every piece of music that influenced me it would fill your whole magazine. 


You are especially well known in France for having been part of the group Television. Do you feel that this limits you? 

"Having been a founding member of Television and being part of that era is something I can never feel limited by -- it was the absolute coming true of my dream and felt like I had run away and joined the Circus. We had so much fun and the music was so profound that we have achieved something very few people do -- and irrevocable and permanent place in the history of rock 'n roll. What most people don't know is that I found Tom -- he did not find me, and I was the one who suggested to my friend Terry Ork that he put us together, because I saw that Tom had something but was also missing something, and what he was missing, I had. I knew I had a strong talent and that I would become a legendary guitarist -- that seemed to be my fate or destiny, but at the time I also recognized that I was missing something, and that Tom had it, so the mixture was a very powerful one. And let's not forget that in addition to founding Television, we created CBGBs, which is now the most famous rock club in all of rock 'n roll history -- certainly more famous now than the whiskey a go-go or the cavern club or the marquee club or the Star club. And if we hadn't driven it

in the direction we wanted to go, they would still be playing what the initials stood for -- country, bluegrass and blues. And the owner, well, we just took over, and Television was the house band -- we were in charge, and Tom never went there except when we had a show, but I was there almost every night, and since Hilly didn't know anything about rock music, Terry Ork basically booked the club for the first three years, and he would rely on my advice as to which bands would be allowed to play more than once. So even though I am not acknowledged personally, I don't really care, because I know how I acted as a catalyst for that entire scene. 


Television recorded an album when the band got back together. Do you think that this is something that could happen again? 

"Never -- I have left the band permanently, and although our contract allows for any three original members to continue, if they try to form a Television without me, all I can do is wish them good luck. But I will never play with Tom again, because my assessment of him is that he does not deserve my loyalty -- if he had been more willing to work, Television would have been much more successful, but Tom is a stubborn and selfish man, who thinks of no one but himself, and who really does not like to do any work -- the complete opposite of how I feel. I love to play and to go on tour, but Tom only does it for the money, and he suffers from something -- I can only call it "universal and global contempt for everything and everyone except himself. I remained loyal for the other members of the band for 34 years, always putting aside my own projects if Television was going to do something. But 14 years went by, and we continued to perform 15 to 25 shows a year, but Tom refused to record anything, and my sense is that he subconsciously has an enormous fear of success, so he sabotages himself and everyone around him with his selfishness. 


Is your tribute album to Jimi Hendrix still in your plans? 

"It is not a tribute album, but the payment of a debt, and it is dedicated to the very close friendship between Velvert Turner and myself and Jimi. The record has been finished for quite a while -- I will be selling copies when I go on tour this month in America, but the official release date is September 1. It is called "The Jamie Neverts Story", and contains 10 Hendrix songs, performed by myself, Chris Purdy on drums and Keith Hartel on bass. I only did songs that Jimi liked during his whole career -- he had learned to hate songs like "Foxy Lady", because he felt that those kinds of songs where he had to play guitar with his teeth and make sexual innuendos onstage turned him into a kind of circus clown. I also do not do any of the songs that have been covered too many times, the so-called "guitar hero songs" like "Voodoo Child, slight return", and I don't do "Little Wing" even though everybody and their mother wanted to hear my version of it, because it has been over done -- Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan's versions of that song make me want to puke. I only did songs from the first two records with the intention of paying my debt to Jimi and to Velvert -- which were the songs that Chas Chandler had a great deal to do with, shortening the songs which only increased their power. I also used no effects on the guitars -- no fuzz box, no Octavia, no wa-wa pedal, nothing backwards, no feedback (although there are sounds on the record that you might think are feed back), because when Jimi use those effects they were fresh and new, but now any clown with a dollar can go buy a Jimi Hendrix package which is guaranteed to make you sound like you want to sound like Jimi Hendrix, but of course you can't sound like him, because you didn't know him and you didn't know either his strength or his shyness and compassion. I did. 


"Monkey" or " Swipe it" on your last album to date are very close to the energy that could be found on the New York scene at the end of the seventies. Is this notion of rage and energy intrinsically yours? 

"Yes, that energy is intrinsically mine -- psychologically I am a wounded child who developed defense mechanisms that included a towering intellect surrounding a coil of rage -- so my mishandling of the guitar, which is a relationship, is completely true and honest. I still feel like a 14-year-old who jumps up and down on the bed because he finds he has more energy than can possibly be contained inside of the body. Luckily, this intensity has found a beneficial outlet. I think that the true rock 'n roll musician must be like a shaman or medicine man -- he must break the social barriers and constraints that the ordinary man can't. He has to wear a suit and tie on Monday morning. I don't. So when you buy a ticket to see me perform, my function is to cross the boundaries of the possible, and search for the impossible and show it to you. This provides a cathartic release for the audience, like Jim Morrison exposing himself, or Iggy Pop rolling around in broken glass. Social man cannot do these things, so he needs something like priests who can walk up to the devil without fear, because their souls are betrothed elsewhere. The French had a wonderful group of poets who advocated this same catharsis -- Baudelaire, Rimbaud, etc, the idea being antinomian -- that is, salvation through sin and by heading straight towards hell in order to find heaven. I have a great affinity for the French because of this. What most people do not understand for instance, is that the works of the Marquis de Sade were tales of moral integrity in the face of demonic energies -- they were not simply sadistic pornography. Anyone who reads "Justine and Juliet" or "Philosophy of the Bedroom" all the way through -- every word, finds that the Marquis de Sade was actually advocating virtue, and all of the travails were simply tests. Of course the world cannot understand this, and perhaps they shouldn't, but those of us who are called to the performance of rock music must know this, and much more besides. 

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