Friday, January 22, 2010
Interview with Leigh Gregory part II
Though it's safe to say Leigh Gregory is not a new or less-known artist,as this blog usually profiles, it's also safe to say there can never be enough great press about him and his lifetime musical endeavors, as they are one of the great joys in my life, and so many other music fans' lives out there. Over the years, Leigh has made music of all different styles. Today, he concentrates on a lot of acoustic, or semi-acoustic music, by himself or with his project Memory's Mystic Band, in his home city of San Fransisco, California. If you have had the pleasure to read part I of my interview with him, last year, then you are familiar with his current work, and good for you! Let me now have the pleasure of bringing you the second part of my interview with the amazing Leigh Gregory.
Your EP you released as Memory's Mystic Band is a stunning piece of modern folk rock. Are you still working with MMB? Doing live performances? Anything else to be recorded soon?
Oh, yeah, Memory’s Mystic Band is my main project now. That project started several years ago after I had major surgery done on my spine. Mellow Drunk had kinda imploded at the time and I didn’t want to do another electric project (wasn’t very steady on my feet either!!!) so I started playing acoustic – just sitting in a chair -- at the Plough and the Stars Pub here in SF. Soon friends started joining in so suddenly there was a fluctuating band. The recordings that have surfaced are actually a couple of years old as we’ve settled into a four-piece now that is much more electric-oriented with me on guitar and vocals, Stephen Cavoretto on keys and vocals, Ville Vilpponen on bass and his brother Jaakko drums.
I was listening to Mellow Drunk the other day (every few days, a different MD album gets popped into my stereo) and wondering, would you ever do any more recordings/shows with MD as the artist name? Do you keep in touch with everyone involved with that past project?
Cool that you’re still into Mellow Drunk!!! Yeah, I’m in contact with everyone from the band. Ricky (Mellow Drunk guitar) has really gotten out there since the band broke up and I’m always amazed by how much he gets done and how many major projects he’s a part of. I can’t even list everything he’s done since the Mellow Drunk days but he joined the Triffids for their re-union shows/tours, did a record with Steve Kilbey, and plays with Liverpool’s Wild Swans (and I know I’m just scratching the surface), in addition to holding down one of the guitar spots with The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Daniel played bass on my “1973” recording, and both Patrick (drums on “One Thousand Lights”) and Sean (drums on “Never Sleep at Night”) played drums. Of course, Stephen (Mellow Drunk keys) and I are in MMB together. Sean and Daniel have also played in Memory’s Mystic Band.
As far as shows with Mellow Drunk go we’ve done a couple of short acoustic sets with me and Steven and Ricky (when he’s in town) at the Plough and the Stars but no plans for any future electric shows. (Sorry!!!!)
What direction do you want to take your music in, in 2010? I wonder about the upcoming decade and what kind of music my favorite artists will bring to me. What kind of ideas are you toying with?
Well, we’re just finishing up a new batch of songs with Memory’s Mystic Band that I’m quite happy with and I’m just striving to make music that will stand the test of time and stay relevant no matter how many years go by. With MMB I’m always trying to draw on influences from folk, blues and beyond, then trying them out to see what works in our format of guitar, keys, bass and drums.
What is your favorite song to play electric? And your favorite acoustic song to play? Have you gotten anymore guitars for your collection? New gear?
I enjoy playing other people’s stuff if I’m sitting around with my acoustic (unless it’s a new song I’ve just written that I’m still trying to work it out) and I think it’s kind of a lost art to hear a song that really affects you, then have a go at it, work it out and play it by yourself (it’s also a great way to learn how other songwriters work).
So… if I’ve got the acoustic out I might play a couple of songs by Jackson C. Frank or Townes Van Zandt. I was meaning to play Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London” or “Zimmerman Blues” for a recent Christmas show but never got to play either of them (didn’t want to muck them up ya know??). I love to play “ Clifton in the Rain,” which is an old, old Al Stewart tune and I’ll sometimes play an old Jimmy Campbell song called “Lovely Eliza Cope is Dead.” I’ll play traditional stuff such as “Angie” or “Lord Franklin.” I’ll play Grant McLennan‘s “Black Mule” a lot and do that one live. Of course, MMB’s first single on the label Edition 59 features a nice cover version of Nikki Sudden’s “Ambulance Station” (we do that one live as well), and we’re just mixing a cover of the Edgar Broughton Band’s great song “Hotel Room.”
As far as electric goes I’ve been playing to lots of Television and Hank Marvin/Shadows tunes over the past year. Over Christmas I was playing along with John Perry’s solos (the Only Ones). He’s a great, way under-rated player!!!! I think after 30 years I might have about 80% of his solo down on “Planet”!!!!!!
Sorry no new gear to report. Actually had to sell a couple of things last year to get by but that’s OK. Unfortunately my long-time guitar tech passed away last year so no mods to any guitars either.
Have you discovered any new bands lately that thrill you? Are you awaiting anyone's upcoming releases this new year?
I listen to a pretty good cross-section of musical genres. Have lots of recordings by contemporary bands (I’m lucky friends turn me on to so much stuff), but I also love to go back and listen to old folk, blues and jazz records. The one thing with being a songwriter and a guitar player is that a lot of time I’m either writing a new song or working something out on the guitar and cuts into the listening time. That said I’ve over the holidays and into the New Year I’ve been listening to an eclectic blend of recordings by the likes of Tame Impala, Charlie Parker, Wizz Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Calexico, Grant Green, Howlin’ Wolf, The Arctic Monkeys and The Walkmen.
Do you have any resolutions for 2010?
Love to get out and tour in 2010. Also want to release a really solid Memory’s Mystic Band CD out. We’ve been going though songs like crazy, recording lots and then kicking songs out trying to get a really solid set of songs together. I think at this point I’d like to lay down about five so six more songs (which would bring the recorded total up to about 20 songs) and then start picking the best tunes for an album.
Why is music so important to us? Getting a little philosophical, but we can get that way at this time of year!
You know, that is a really good question and a hard one to answer. In my case music really appealed to me when I was very young and it’s continued to be very important to me, whether I want it to be or not, throughout the rest of my life. Certain songs tend to mark certain periods of one’s life. When I hear certain songs they bring back certain memories and feelings: the places you’ve lived, the people you knew.
I think once you move from being a listener to being a songwriter it’s a difficult proposition because once you get into the flow of song writing it’s pretty much impossible to stop. I keep a $30.00 cassette player with a tape in it at all times as I know if I don’t capture an idea when it happens (and inevitably song ideas happen at the oddest times) it will probably slip away forever.
Have you read the John Lennon quote about songwriting? I think it’d be a good note to end on so here it ‘tis:
Songwriting… is like being possessed. You try to go to
sleep, but the song won't let you. So you have
to get up and make it into something… It's always in the
middle of the night, or you're half-awake or
tired, when your critical faculties are switched
off… Every time you try to put your finger on it, it
Mr. Leigh Gregory, thank you so much, for giving me the pleasure of another interview. I am really happy to be able to present this to my like-minded music fans who appreciate music the way you and I do. We wish you the best, always.