Ebet Roberts, Redferns Wilco announced earlier today (April 22) they'll be…
- Posted on Sep 15th 2011 1:00PM by Dave Steinfeld
2011 is proving to be a significant year for Lowe. In March, his 1979 album 'Labour of Lust' was reissued on CD with remastered sound and a pair of bonus tracks. Last month saw the release of 'Rockpile Live at Montreux 1980,' a rollicking, 16-track affair. And this week, Lowe returned with a new studio album, 'The Old Magic.' It's a successful but subdued effort that finds him joined by the likes of Paul Carrack, Jimmie Vaughan and Ron Sexsmith. On top of that, Lowe will support the album in the US when he opens for Wilco this fall. Spinner recently caught up with this musical jack-of-all-trades for a spirited, slightly self-deprecating conversation.
There's a song on your new album called 'Restless Feeling.' We read that it was supposedly written for a fictional band.
Yes [laughs]. Neil Brockbank and Bobby Irwin had a record label and they put out one release [but] it was fantastic, with Dan Penn and Spooner Oldham, legendary Memphis musicians who did some shows with me in the UK. We recorded the shows and made a live album, which they put out on their label, Blue Five.
One night, we were in Japan. We'd had a few drinks, and we thought it'd be really funny if we made a Blue Five kind of sampler record, like they used to do where record labels would put an album out with their artists all doing one track. We were thinking about what the names of some of these artists might be. One of these artists was going to be a kind of over-the-hill boy band, sort of a cross between New Kids on the Block and the Osmond Brothers. And we had a fictional name for this band -- they were called Coastline. We thought this was real funny, you know, and I started thinking of a song that Coastline might sing, and it was 'Restless Feeling.' We thought it was a pretty good track! So it went from being a joke to being on the record.
Many artists have cited you as one of the songwriters they admire. Who are some of the songwriters you admire?
That's a very good question. Bob Dylan is the greatest but I don't spend much time listening to his records. I sort of dip in and out of Bob. But he is the greatest, I think.
My favorite contemporary songwriters [are] Randy Newman and Ron Sexsmith. But in the main, I tend to listen to dead people most of all [laughs]. I really like Arthur Alexander, Don Gibson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard. Those are the people I really admire and try to emulate.
Isn't Merle still with us?
I believe he is! I'm sure I would have [heard] if he wasn't.
You have some other interesting stuff going on this year. One thing is a new live Rockpile album, 'Live at Montreux.' Why was it reissued some 30 years after the fact?
Well, I have no control over that stuff. Maybe because no one thought it was much good!
And now you're going to be doing a tour with Wilco.
That's right. I'm doing [them] on my own and I'm really looking forward to it. I hope it works. [Wilco are] playing slightly bigger rooms than I play -- well, quite a bit bigger rooms than I play! They're playing fairly big theaters, probably right at the limit that my thing will [go] over, you know, with an acoustic guitar. But I've done that sort of work before. If I can get at least a proportion of their audience who might not have ever heard of me to get on my side, that would be really fantastic. The trick is to make it so that you don't bore people.
The more worrying thing for me is the fact that everybody tells me what a fantastic time I'm gonna have with Wilco and what great guys they are! Have you ever been in that situation where you meet someone and you say to them, "I've got this friend. You're really gonna like him"? Then when they actually meet each other, they don't really hit it off that well!
It's even worse when you hear that you're about to meet the girl of your dreams, and you meet her and that turns out not to be the case at all.
[Laughs] Goodbye, love!
You've been involved in some real watershed events over the years. 'So It Goes' was the first Stiff Records single. You produced the Damned, who were arguably the first punk rock band. Did you have any idea while you were going through these events that they were, in fact, landmark events?
Not really, no. I thought, "Oh, this is good, no one's done this before." But one of the things about being the first person to do [something is that] you don't really think it's gonna work. You think it'd be too good to be true if the thing actually caught fire. It's when you're sort of fifth or sixth along, you know, and whatever it is that you've joined is up and running, you say, "I stand a bit of chance here." If you're the first one, you never think it's gonna work.
Is there any artist you would still like to produce?
No, I'm through with producing, really. I do my own records and I really enjoy doing that. I'm really quite set in my ways now and I wouldn't want to sort of inflict that on somebody else. It's also quite expensive, the way I make records. I use real musicians and an expensive studio. In my opinion, [it's] the last really great studio in London, and it doesn't come cheap. And nowadays, there really isn't the money to spend on producing people like that.
The other thing is that I take a lot of care over how my records sound and I think that they sound good, but I'm very aware that it's unlikely I'll ever be a mainstream recording artist because of the way my records sound. I really like the homemade quality [of] my records. As soon as [they] start, you can tell that there are human beings at work. Some people find that delightful, and I'm very pleased about that. But the vast majority of the public doesn't find it delightful. They find it unsettling because they're conditioned to hear their popular music done on machines and they know there won't be any kind of mistakes unless they're totally by design. Don't get me wrong -- I'm not complaining about this. There are many, many great records made on computers, but I'm not interested in making records that way. And I'm afraid I have to be content with the fact that my stuff will only appeal to a limited number of people. I don't think Beyonce will ever have to look over her shoulder!