Lloyd Cole On Why Deadlines are Helpful and How To Survive a Tour Van Breakdown (Hint: Really Good Tequila)

May 24, 2016

Tell us about your tour vehicle. Any notable breakdown stories?

I drive a 2008 Honda Accord Coupe that desperately needs a paint job due to my lack of spacial awareness. I no longer attempt any manoeuvres in tight spots which involve reversing. Not too many miles, though. I don’t tour solo by car in US that much. Occasionally I’ll borrow the wife’s CRV. Even our lawnmower is a Honda. Back in the band touring days it seemed like vehicles were always breaking down. The Negatives were the best band to tour with, stuck in some tiny town in Colorado with the van in the shop. Dave Derby’s solution was to drink really good tequila all day. Simple genius. Later the same tour we got stuck in the snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains en-route to a show in SF the same day. Rafa the drummer was the only one small enough to crawl under the van and put the snow chains on. We arrived at the venue and the audience was already there…

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

Well, both is ideal. I like good food, though, so I will research the best restaurants for my days off, show days the schedule is usually too tight so I eat a large breakfast and then something as close to sound check as possible. I can’t eat within 4 hours of singing. On tour in France once I spotted a Michelin 3 star restaurant close to our route on a long driving day. That was fun! It was lunch but still, we were the only diners not formally dressed. It wasn’t cheap, that’s for sure, but every now and again one needs to be rewarded on tour.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

I haven’t broken a string on stage for at least 5 years, maybe longer. I can’t remember the last time… solo acoustic, that is. Steel strings do go dull, though. I can usually get 3 shows out of may main guitar before it needs changing and 4 or 5 out of the alternate tuning which gets played less. I recently started changing strings in the middle of the night when I’m still too wound up from the show to sleep. It doesn’t feel like such a waste of time, then. On my occasinal band forays I seem to break strings quite often, I think I have forgotten how to play electric guitar properly.

Where do you rehearse?

My attic is full of modular synths. My basement has a room with a drum kit in it, but since (my son) William left for NYC, it doesn’t get used much. Learning heavy rock songs to play with my kids at my 50th birthday was the most fun. Frank would have been 12 playing the drums. Dave from the Negatives came and sang “Back In Black”. I played bass. How fast is “The Ace Of Spades”? As fast as you can possibly play…

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

I don’t have a record of it. My 2 pals and I formed a punk band when we were 16. We played the school ball in the gym. All punk covers except one soppy love song I wrote.

Describe your first gig.

See above.

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

I never had a proper day job. In college I bar tended. I tried to work in a fruit and vegetable market once, that was a bad idea. I am not strong enough, I lasted until I saw how little I was being paid then went back to bartending. Since I left college in 1983 this has been my day job.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

There is less from royalties, that’s for sure. There is more from live income because I perform more. In 5 years I hope to be semi-retired and play maybe a month a year.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

Taking a long time and spending a lot of money to make an album is never a good idea. Deadlines are helpful.

It’s been 30 years since Lloyd Cole appeared on the radar of music fans around the world with his band, The Commotions, and their stunning debut, Rattlesnakes. Cole has kept busy, releasing solo albums since 1990.  His most recent album, Standards, was released by Omnivore Recordings in September, 2014.

Though he’d never be so gauche as to suggest it himself, Cole has enjoyed something of a renaissance with Standards, a gloriously electric rock ’n’ roll record that fans and critics alike have hailed as his best work since Rattlesnakes.  Recorded in late 2012 to early 2013 in Los Angeles, New York and at his home in Massachusetts, the album is produced by Lloyd and mixed by maverick German producer Olaf Opal. All songs are by Lloyd Cole apart from “California Earthquake,” which was written by American folk artist John Hartford.

Inspired in part by the vitality he found in septuagenarian Bob Dylan’s acclaimed 2012 album Tempest, says Cole: “I took it as a kick up the backside . . . I had spent much of the 2000’s focused on making age appropriate music, and I’m happy with those albums, but listening to Bob — I don’t think he knows how old he is. And I wondered what might happen if I didn’t worry about it. Well, this is what happened.

The band Lloyd assembled for Standards comprises Fred Maher (Lou Reed, Material, Scritti Politti) on drums and Matthew Sweet on bass reforming the rhythm section from Lloyd’s debut solo album, 1990’s Lloyd Cole and its follow-up Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe.

With Joan (As Police Woman) Wasser on piano/backing vocals, and Cole not only singing but playing synths amidst some of the crispest, stormiest, most stinging electric guitar, it’s a tight ship with a tight sound that tautens and relaxes according to the temper of the song. Augmenting the basic band are Lloyd’s son Will, Mark Schwaber and Matt Cullen on guitars, Commotions keyboardist Blair Cowan, percussionist Michael Wyzik and, from Cole’s post-Commotions band the Negatives, backing vocalist Dave Derby.

Connect with Cole online and on the road.