FACE TiME POLiCE
iNTERViEWS LiViNG COLOUR
COREY GLOVER OF LiViNG COLOUR
TALKS TO ROCKWiRED
ABOUT THEiR LATEST CD THE CHAiR iN THE DOORWAY
BLENDiNG VARiOUS SOUNDS TOGETHER
AND BEiNG MORE THAN A BLACK ROCK BAND
JANUARY 12, 2010
iNTERViEWED BY BRiAN LUSH
It wasn’t all that long ago when the idea of black guys picking up guitars and letting ‘em rip was a questionable one. Sure, you had HENDRIX, but that was it and he was dead. In 1988, LIVING COLOUR stormed the airwaves and MTV with their breakout hit ‘CULT OF PERSONALITY’ from their debut album ‘VIVID’. The potent mix of VERNON REID’s dexterity on the guitar, MUZZY SKILLING’s slapping bass lines, WILL CALHOUN’s thunderous percussion and COREY GLOVER’s big, gospel-honed vocal prowess challenged the widely accepted notion that rock was a white man’s game. Either wittingly or unwittingly, LIVING COLOUR broke rock’s color barrier in a way that other black rock stalwarts such as ARTHUR LEE and NONA HENDRYX could’ve only imagined. These days, the proverbial door is wide open with artists such as ?UESTLOVE, SEVENDUST, LENNY KRAVITZ, and SKUNK ANANSIE and the fellas from LIVING COLOUR deserve most of the credit for kicking it wide open. While such notice is fine and well-deserved, being labeled a black rock band is something that lead singer COREY GLOVER finds limiting. “We infused elements of everything in our music.” says GLOVER “We realized early on that you could take the elements of everything and make it into whatever it wants to be. For me that was the essence of what rock n roll was. That was what my opinion of it was. People took all of this stuff from tropical music to the blues and country music and they turned it into something else. We took the spirit of that and really tried make something out of it. The formula is not difficult. The formula is to throw everything you know into the pot and see what comes out.”
Now the band is back with a bold new album ‘THE CHAIR IN THE DOORWAY’(MEGAFORCE RECORDS) and a need to prove to the world that they are still a band equally as willing to rock out as they are to play around with different sound textures. “We started writing these songs and the songs started to form themselves.” says GLOVER “The themes of the songs started to speak to the internal struggles within one’s self and the need to move forward. The songs just came out. We wrote a bunch of songs for this record and a lot of them didn’t work because they didn’t work with the theme. These songs did. I like the fact that the songs are short. No song is more than four minutes on this album. The songs are to the point. They say what they have to say and they get out of there. I love that about this record.”
ROCKWIRED spoke with vocalist COREY GLOVER of LIVING COLOUR over the phone. Here is how it went.
When I was a kid I think I was the only dark-skinned kid who listened to metal music and then you guys came along and it was such a revelation to me.
It sounds like ‘CULT OF PERSONALITY’ was your whole thing but trust me there were a whole lot of sides to our music. When I was growing up I was wasn’t relegated to one station on the dial. When I was growing up I found a do-wop station and that really blew my mind. I was like ‘It’s all singing? Really?’ I understand exactly where you are coming from.
I’m glad that you do. In an era where a lot of heavy guitar riffs came from white guys in makeup, you guys were really something else.
Now, you guys have this great CD out. ‘THE CHAIR IN THE DOORWAY’ was actually a Christmas present and had no idea of its release until someone gave it to me as a Christmas gift. It was a real treat for me. Now that the CD is out there for people to hear, how do you feel about the finished work?
I love it. I know it sounds like bullshit but I really do. I love that fact that we had a concept and an idea and the record sort of formed itself around that. VERNON and I had a conversation years ago right after we made ‘CALIEDOSCOPE’ (2003). We said that the album was going be called ‘THE CHAIR IN THE DOORWAY’. It was based on some conversation that we had about a chair being in the doorway. We were actually talking about the band and moaning about the personalities within the band and trying to move forward and we couldn’t because the chair was in the doorway. It was quizzical but it made sense at the same time. As we sat down and had a title for this project we sat down and started writing some songs. At first we thought that we would write songs about the chair in the doorway and it didn’t work. Then, we just started writing songs, period. Before you knew it BURNED BRIDGES came along and we started writing more and stuff.
Like ‘BLESS THOSE (LITTLE ANNIE’S PRAYER)’, ‘HARD TIMES’ and ‘DECADENCE’.
‘DECADENCE’ was actually the song that I was thinking about but ‘BLESS THOSE’ is actually a song that we’ve been doing for a long time. The song is actually a cover. We love the song because it’s so raw and it’s got this bar room, sawdust-on-the-floor kind of vibe to it. It reminded us of where we came from. We started writing these songs and the songs started to form themselves. The themes of the songs started to speak to the internal struggles within one’s self and the need to move forward. The songs just came up. We wrote a bunch of songs for this record and a lot of them didn’t work because they didn’t work with the themebut the ones onthis album did. I like the fact that the songs are short. No song is more than four minutes on this album. The songs are to the point. They say what they have to say and they get out of there. I love that about this record.
How do you think this album stands out from previous releases?
‘CALEIDOSCOPE’ (2003) was an album about us being back together. Part of the reason that the band got back together was because we all loved each other and the other reason was because of 9/11. When that happened, we really thought that we all needed to be together. The world may not have needed us but we needed each other.
What drove the band apart initially?
Being tired and sleep deprived. We worked constantly form ‘VIVID’ to ‘THE STAIN’. We never stopped working. We’d take a couple weeks off and then get back on the horse and start working again. In that time, MUZZY left the band and there were some personal issues that were going on. VERNON was going through a messy divorce and one of my parents had died at that point in time. DOUG WIMBISH had just gotten in the band and we were all figuring how that was going to work out and WILL was going through his own thing. At the same time, we were all trying to make records and trying to make them successful and they weren't. The work suffered because of everything that each of us was going through. It might not have been the most artful way of deciding not to work with each other but it was the lack of success that made it necessary for us to take a break. What’s interesting now is that we’ve been back together longer than we’ve been apart. We’ve been back together since 1999. We broke up ’95.
Yeah, it wasn’t a lot of years.
Exactly! We’ve been back together again for over ten years.
Talk about the band’s beginnings. How did that begin?
VERNON has been doing this thing for a very long time before I came into the picture. He had been playing locally and recording with other people and doing his own thing and the band had gone through several different incarnations. It was a trio at first with VERNON singing and then I came along things started to really gel. When WILL and MARTY came along, things started to gel a lot more and things were really solidified and people started to take notice because we were playing out all the time and we started to get a little bit of a following. By the time we got signed, we had been playing whole lot in the New York City area and were really making an impact. We were already in it by the time ‘VIVID’ came out in ’88.
Now that VIVID is over twenty years old, what kind of place does it hold in your heart?
I hate to say it but it reminds me of my youth! (Laughs)
It does. I listen to it and I’m like ‘Wow! I was still living with my parents! Wow! I was no married! Wow! I had no kids!’ I was still living in Brooklyn. It reminds me of all that it took to get there and the long ride in the van to get to these gigs in Florida. It reminds me of traveling across the country in this passenger van. That’s what it reminds me of.
LIVING COLOUR is pretty much written off as a black hard rock band but you guys did other things in later albums.
Even in our early albums. BROKEN HEARTS is not a hard rock tune. SOLACE OF YOU is not a hard rock tune. THIS IS THE LIFE is not a hard rock tune. NOTHINGNESS is not a hard rock tune. We infused elements of everything in our music. There was a song off of the CALIEDOSCOPE album called NIGHTMARE CITY which was a reggae tune. We realized early on that you could take the elements of everything and make it into whatever it wants to be. For me that was the essence of what rock n roll was. That was what my opinion of it was. People took all of this stuff from tropical music to the blues and country music and they turned it into something else. We took the spirit of that and really tried make something out of it. The formula is not difficult. The formula is to throw everything you know into the pot and see what comes out.
That was what was great about you guys back in 1988. You didn’t have to be BOBBY BROWN, or whoever was popular then. What you did was different. Did you ever think that there was a price to pay for doing that?
I think that the only price that we really had to pay was that if people in the industry wouldn’t know how to label, they would ignore you. That was what we had been fighting against from the very beginning. People would refer to us as a black metal band or a black hard rock band when we knew that we weren’t. Hard rock and heavy metal are part of what we do. On this latest album, BURNED BRIDGES, DECADENCE, and OUT OF MIND are definitely hard rock/metal tunes but there is something different about them. Just in the way that VERNON plays the guitar. He’s not what you call a metal guitarist. I’m not what you’d call a metal singer. My influences and how I approach singing is not like some screaming banshee. My approach was all in the passion of it. It wasn’t screaming of the sake of screaming. It’s also not anger for anger’s sake. I think it’s a little more thoughtful. If the truth be told – if I want to be honest with myself – I think of myself as a very loud gospel singer. I’m a very loud blues singer. You know what I mean? That’s where my thing comes from. VERNON’s musical influences are more varied not least of which are part of where he comes from. He brings a lot of Caribbean influences into his music because that is where he comes from but you also hear some English sensibilities and some jazz influences.
Talk about the other members of the band and what you think each of them has brought to the table not just musically but personality-wise that has made this thing work for so many years.
DOUG WIMBISH is without a question the history of hip-hop music. Early hip-hop has DOUG WIMBISH all over it from all of the SUGAR HILL stuff to the stuff that he did after that. DOUG WIMBISH is the progenitor of all of the hip-hop that you know and love right now. You can listen to something from back in that day and go ‘That’s DOUG right there!’ WILL CALHOUN is one of the baddest drummers that I have met in my life. A couple of weeks ago we had a benefit for PEDRO BELL. PEDRO BELL is an artist who did the artwork for all the FUNKADELIC and GEORGE CLINTON albums. PEDRO is not doing well right now. He’s very sick and his medical bills are literally bankrupting him. The BLACK ROCK COALITION set up a benefit to help supplement his medical costs. We had been off the road for a couple of weeks now and we did this benefit. The drummer that was there was really good. But when WILL got on the stage, it was like night and day. He is one of the most amazing drummers. He is one of the most amazing, educated steel drummers. WILL has been playing for a very long time. He and I are about the same age. He has grown musically in that he will go to the source of where all of this rhythmic stuff comes from. He has traveled back and forth to Africa, to Australia and South America and sought out the roots of some of these rhythmic textures and has incorporated them into what LIVING COLOUR does. That is amazing to me! He can go to Mali and talk to the master drummers there and learn from them. He is the consummate student. He is always learning. VERNON is incredible. The wealth of musical ideas in this band come from VERNON and the technological aspect of is VERNON’s. He is constantly evolving with the technology. He is amazing!
I realize that I’m getting into your bio a bit late but how did music begin for you?
It began at home and in the church. My older brother was a singer and he was one of my major influences – my biggest influence. Because I was the little brother I was doing everything that I could to be better than him. When you’re the little brother you get all of the shit.
That’s what I hear.
You’re an older brother aren’t you?
As an older brother you have probably inflicted more psychological damage.
I know I have and I admit it and have apologized numerous times for it.
The up side to being the younger brother is that you have something to fight for. That was my thing with singing. thought that if my older brother could sing, then I could do it to and do it better than he does. So, if any of your siblings are writers, you’d better be careful.
Thankfully I’m the only one.
So my brother was an influence and so were my parents. They played lots and lots of different kinds of music in the house. I remember when I was growing up, the big record in my house was MILES DAVIS’ ‘BITCHES BREW’. That was the bridge between and me and my brother and sister. That was the music that both of my parents got into. Everybody in the house could get into it. When I got around to listening to my own music, I searched the radio for stuff and found the doo-wop station, and I found the college radio stations and I found the rock station that was playing QUEEN, AC/DC and MOTORHEAD. I wasn’t relegated to one station on the dial. I flipped around and listened to the loudest, most rockin’ stuff and then when I became a teenager I discovered punk music. I found all of this stuff whereas my friends listened to this one type of music. I never let myself do that. When I was coming up, I listened to all of this stuff and it really influenced me to do it. I wanted to be a part of it and luckily I was.
Talk about the creative process within the band. How do songs get written?
Songwriting is a collaborative thing. If someone comes with a drum beat or a bass line, someone will add to that and then we get down and come up with a groove and the groove will turn into a song. A lot of stuff on this record was written during sound checks and luckily someone had a recorder on.
What songs off of this album stand out for you the most and why?
The song ‘NOT TOMORROW’ stands out for me. When the vocal was being recorded, my mother passed away – during the actual recording of the song. In a way it was as if my mother’s spirit was guiding me during that recording. What you hear on the CD is only the second take. When I finished recording the vocal, I was very pleased with it and then I got the phone call that my mother passed away. That song is major for me. It has major significance for me. ‘DECADENCE’ is another song for me. I love how it grooves and rocks. I love the whole album really. I love it all.
Talk about working with your label MEGAFORCE.
MEGAFORCE is a very interesting label. From it’s earliest beginnings – when it was a management company – they are very artist-centric. They understand what an artist wants and needs. They understand that an artist needs to put out their music so they can go out and play. They understand that the distribution and the selling of your product is all necessary in having you get out there and play as opposed to an album simply being a mere marketing tool.
What is the status of your tour? Are you on break now?
We’re on a break right now. We’re going to be heading back to Europe next week for about two weeks and then we’ll come back and we’re going out for the EXPERIENCE HENDRIX TOUR in March to play HENDRIX tunes. We’ll be going to Asia in April and during the summer, we’re definitely going to play in New York and try to get out into the States and see what we can do.
What would you like someone to come away with after they’ve heard this album?
That they come away going “Yeah, this is a good thing!” I’d like for people to get it and realize that we s a band have moved forward. If you listen to a song like BURNED BRIDGES and go ‘Yeah, I’ve been in that situation where I felt like I can’t got back and that I’ve done all this stuff just to get here’ then, that would be worth it.