Interview by Danny Coleman
“You can’t just sit down and say I’m going to write a song. You’ve got to be in a creative mood,” says John Lodge, legendary bassist of the Moody Blues as he discussed his latest solo release, “Live From Birmingham,” his current tour and two upcoming area shows; October 15 at The Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA and The City Winery in New York City on October 17.
Still riding a wave of success from 2015’s, “10,000 Light Years Ago,” Lodge has now released a live product encompassing his music and concert experiences bothauditory and visually. The album was recorded at a storied venue which holds very fond memories for him and one which had a profound impact on his career.
“I’m promoting a release, “Live From Birmingham” it is a live album recorded in Birmingham Town Hall in England which is a very special iconic venue for anybody in Birmingham,” he explained in reflective tones. “Growing up as teenagers to get a gig there was unbelievable because they used to do a thing called, “All-nighters” and on a Saturday night into Sunday, all of the bands from Birmingham used to try and get a booking there because you played all night. They also had all of the great British and American rockers there; Buddy Holly was my absolute hero. He showed me the way to write songs and everything else; he was just brilliant. I managed to see him, I had tickets in the front row of Birmingham Town Hall and I said to my agent that when I finished my tour, I wanted to record the concert, release it on 180 Gram and vinyl as a double album sleeve and I wanted to release it as a DVD. So it completed the circle for me because there’s a young Johnny Lodge looking down at Buddy Holly and hopefully there’s a new young musician perhaps looking at me and carrying the music on.”
The night this footage was shot turned out to be more than just a concert for Lodge as not only was he was deeply touched by the reception but also by the attendance of some old friends as well; members of his first band. “When I was learning to play guitar I met Ray Thomas,” he started with reverence in his voice. “Ray had a good voice but he didn’t play any instruments but we formed a band anyway called, “El Riot and The Rebels” and we used to wear Mexican outfits; can you believe that? It was a great time, we were together for four years; Mike Pinder had joined us for a short period of time as well, so yeah it was a great time. When I did the Birmingham Town Hall concert the whole band turned up. The two guitarists turned up, the drummer would’ve been there but unfortunately he had passed away but his family came along. So the whole band was there and that was really, really cool and Ray Thomas was there even though he wasn’t well; special moments indeed.”
With the album already released, Lodge continues to hit the road and has also dropped a single which is available as a free download.
“We released the, “Get Me Out of Here” single from the live album because I really like it; it’s got a lot of energy on the track. We released it as a free download so people can actually download it, listen to it and see if they like what John Lodge is up to these days and we’ve had a really good strong response to it so I’m really pleased. Besides, it’s a free download so if you haven’t got the money because you’ve got other things going on in your life; just check it out.”
Joining him on tour is a very talented supporting cast, one of which he has worked with before and others he’s come to know as the group worked months in advance to put it all together.
“Alan Hewitt who I’ve known for years, is with me; he used to write the songs for a band called Warrant and I’ve known him since the ’80’s. We’ve got Billy the drummer, a guitarist called Duffy out of Detroit and a cellist and slide guitar player who are also out of Detroit. I’ve got a very American band and we rehearsed through the summer and of course we did some rehearsing in Nashville before the tour started.”
Today’s recording technology often causes conflict from bar room discussions of analog versus digital to the methods which artists use to capture their prized songs. Lodge feels that he has found a way to use technology yet keep things just old school style enough to meet his needs and tastes; keeping his music warm and inviting as opposed to some of the more,“Sterile” sounds of today.
“I found a way of recording that I really like, it takes the mundane out of recording. Recording itself is brilliant, I love it but the waiting time and the travel time and everything else just takes the energy out of it. My album, I realized that all of the people that I wanted to work with all owned their own studios. So I just put it together by files; I put the basic track down, sent it to my keyboard player Alan and he worked his magic by putting the basic keyboards on it and then I sent it to my drummer and he went into his studio when he was ready and put the drums on. So then we went backward and forward listening to the drums, checking it and changing it and then we eventually sent it to Chris Spedding my guitarist and I asked him when he wasn’t touring if he would put the tracks on in his studio, which he did and then all of the files came to me, I booked a studio for 24 hours and put all of the final bass parts, vocals and acoustic guitars on and sort of put it together through analog machines to get what I think was the right sound for the album.”
How about the Moody Blues? Will there be any new recordings in the future with any of the remaining members? Lodge says that the band leaves that door ajar but that there is nothing in the works at the moment.
“I’m not too sure whether that will really happen because as you know the record industry has changed so much. You really need a mentor, you need a music man who really wants you to go make a record. We’ve always had great music men that we could play our music for. The original guy was Sir Edward Lewis who started the Decca Record Company throughout the world but in America there’s a wonderful man out of New York called Walt Maguire and for 25 years he was the person that we went to all the while; listen we’ve got this new song, listen to this. David Blonde, Bob Dylan’s manager, he was a great record man as well and so if you find a record man who comes and says I wish the Moody Blues would make another album, we’ll think about it I’m sure.”
When one attends a John Lodge concert, there’s an expectation to hear some Moody Blues. Readily agreeing that he loves playing the Moody’s stuff, he also admits that he will feature some of the band’s deeper tracks and a few, “Special” offerings too.
“I’m going to be doing some Moody’s songs as well, songs that I have always wanted to play like, “Singer in a Rock ‘N’ Roll Band” and “Isn’t life Strange” but it also gives me the opportunity to do some Moody Blues songs that we don’t do on stage; things like,“Candle of Life” and songs from, “Blue Jays” like,”Saved By The Music” where I can get some audience participation. On this tour I’m going to do something special because we lost Ray this year and he and I have been friends and working together since I was 15. So I want to play a song as a tribute to Ray on this tour because we’ll never play it as the Moody Blues but I’m also going to play it because Ray was an integral part of my life. I’m also going to play a song of Mike’s because he was an integral part of my life as well; we were all Moody Blues together and I don’t want those songs not to be heard again live on stage so that’s why I’ll be doing those.”
Besides touring and recording, the future holds some fun for this bass master as he will be taking to the high seas but not on a Moody Blues Cruise this time.“I’m joining Yes on Cruise To the Edge and heading down to Cozumel in Mexico, so anybody who has not been on a cruise come along and join me and join Yes and all of the other prog rock bands, it’s a great time.”
To obtain tickets for either area show, or discover more about John Lodge; please go to www.johnlodge.com.
Danny Coleman (Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)