'After Hours: A Tribute To The Music of Lou Reed'
Indie Musicians Give Thanks To The Man and His Music
"Lou Reed practically invented the Indie/DIY ethic during his Velvet Underground days. He was outside the mainstream, outside showbiz, doing what he wanted without some green light from a powerful label."
When I first heard there would be a Lou Reed tribute CD coming out, I was excited and skeptical at the same time. There is a glut of these tribute albums out and I wondered if there would be the usual disappointments. As far as I knew, there was a Velvet Underground tribute circulating but surprisingly no Lou Reed tribute. Well, all that has changed and so have the parameters for doing a tribute. Wampus Multimedia (www.wampus.com) is a label that is setting a different standard. They are an independent label on a mission to win your mind, heart and ears, and with this CD, they do exactly that.
After Hours: A Tribute To The Music of Lou Reed
What is different about this tribute compilation is the fact that all independent artists contributed to it. There is no glitter, glitz or superstars, just great rock music played by some inspired and talented artists that have been influenced by Lou's work. Reed epitomizes the word independent, he gave the music industry and the establishment that runs it the finger a long time ago. Therefore, it seems fitting that this type of recording artist should pay tribute to the man and his work.
Streaming MP3: "How Do You Think It Feels (tvfordogs)"
I had the opportunity to talk to Mark Doyon of Wampus and several of the contributing artists.
Tribute albums seem very popular, why do you think this is so? Do you think there are too many on the market now? Do you think they are representative of the artist honored?
[Mark Doyon, Wampus Multimedia] Tribute albums give artists an opportunity to not only tip a hat to their idols, but also to comment on them. The best tributes are a form of literary and musical criticism. A good cover song is a statement about the person who wrote it. Some tribute albums work better than others, of course, so do all records.
[Johnny Blair] There are plenty of artists to pay tribute to, and the common theme invites fellowship for artists who may have never crossed paths otherwise. From a logistical standpoint, they are easy to do and there is the possibility an existing audience will pick up on it. It had better be good if they do.
Streaming MP3: "Pale Blue Eyes (Radio Caroline)"
I hate to be critical of other projects, but some of them seem to be a clique of artists getting together to exploit the name-value out of another artist's work. Wampus apparently did some unbiased screening, which I am thankful.
[Jim McGuinn (bass), Cordalene] It is impossible to underestimate the influence of Lou and the Velvets. I have been in a bunch of bands over the years, and nearly every one of them, at one time or another, has played one of his songs. There is just something universal and malleable about his music, his songs are often based on a simple chord pattern, but with the kind of space that leaves it open to build upon. While some bands are nearly impossible to cover, for whatever reason, Lou's music is both easy to cover and nearly a universal language of so many musicians. For this record, our version of "Who Loves the Sun" came about pretty much by accident. We were finishing up our first record by doing a few semi-unplugged things, recording at my house in the living room... and we all admired the song and in particular, an arrangement of it that was on a Teenage Fanclub B-Side. Starting from there, we just did it for fun, and I built up the organ track and electric guitar from there. It felt fresh, so we put it on the album, and a few months later when we found out Wampus was doing the tribute, we sent them a copy and forgot about it until they told us we were on the comp! The funny thing is, we have never played the song live, and will have to learn it all over again in order to play it at the album release party this summer - and we will probably do a different version of it again, less country, more indie rock probably! It's my mom's favorite song. She heard the Velvets version on TV one night - I think it is in the soundtrack to "High Fidelity," and she called me to tell me that someone else was doing our song!
[Lee Rude] In general, I think tribute CDs are lousy - too much filler, too many bad versions of great songs, too many bands trying hard to sound like the original. When an artist is as quirky as Lou Reed, and the songs are so well known... well, that can be a recipe for disaster. As an artist, it is your best bet to try something different and to present the song in a way that changes its context or highlights something that moved you in an unusual way. I was interested in this project because I am a Lou Reed fanatic, and because I thought Wampus did an amazing job with their Jonathan Richman tribute CD.
[Agent Geoff, The Special Agents] When it comes to tribute albums I like cover versions that are not too reverential. It can be interesting to try to find something new and different in a well-known song. That is what we tried to do with "All Tomorrow's (Beach) Parties." Lou Reed tends to be primarily celebrated for his lyrics, so I thought it would be interesting to remove the words completely and just enjoy the great melody. In addition, the Velvets were very East coast... so I thought it would be fun to transport their song across the USA and recontextualise it in Surf City.
Well, that is one explanation! In truth, the Special Agents do specialize in surf instrumentals, so when we did a Lou Reed song it was quite natural for us to perform it that way.
[Brook Pridemore] I get the feeling that most bands feel a need or responsibility to pay homage to their influences, which would explain the glut of tribute albums to flood the market over the past few years. I often feel that there are too many of these discs on the market, and the hype surrounding these discs gets way out of hand. Compound that with the fact that tribute albums end up costing substantially more than the original artist's catalog (e.g., Ramones, Pixies); most of the time these discs end up sounding just plain unnecessary. I do, however, genuinely love "After Hours," and not just because I am on it.
Why do a tribute to Lou Reed with Indie bands? What makes this project different from something a major label would do with a bunch of superstars?
[Mark Doyon] Lou Reed practically invented the Indie/DIY ethic during his Velvet Underground days. He was outside the mainstream, outside showbiz, doing what he wanted without some green light from a powerful label. He showed that the mainstream music business is a joke, at least artistically. He also helped independent artists see there was a way to thrive outside of it.
Whether the contributors are superstars or independent musicians is not very important beyond the commercial considerations. What matters is what they have to say about the artist and the music.
Streaming MP3: "Sunday Morning (Johnny J Blair and the Cellarbirds)"
[Johnny Blair] A good interpretation does the job whatever the label status of the artist is. Sometimes the labels assign artists to do tributes that seem so mismatched, all to keep a superstar busy or for the politics of getting them in front of a different audience. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it looks contrived. When tributes first came out about 10 years ago, they were catchy. Now I think the luster has worn off a bit, but a good project is a good project.
[Agent Geoff] It is a good way for relatively unknown bands to reach a new audience. I know of a few Velvet Underground tributes on the market. This is not very surprising considering their massive influence on the indie, alternative and underground scenes around the globe.
Did Lou have any part in this? Is he aware of the project?
[Mark Doyon] Lou requested some copies for his band a few weeks ago, and is running news about the record at his site (www.loureed.com).
[Agent Geoff] I believe Lou has been made aware of the CD now it has been compiled. I wonder what he thinks of our surfed-up version of "All Tomorrow's Parties?"
Does Wampus plan to do any more tributes to popular artists in the future?
[Mark Doyon] We do them if we have a chance to try something interesting or unusual. We did a Jonathan Richman record in 2001. We are putting together a Warren Zevon record for 2004.
[Johnny Blair] Warren Zevon, I am turning in one for that.
Streaming MP3: "Satellite of Love (Kowtow Popof)"
[Agent Geoff] They have already done a Jonathan Richman tribute. I had a solo track on that ("Hey There, Little Insect" by Geoff P Russell's Inhibition Exhibition). I believe they are doing a Warren Zevon tribute next. In addition, they have issued a Robyn Hitchcock tribute. I wish I had known about the Hitchcock one, I would probably have submitted a track for it (I particularly love "The Man With The Light Bulb Head").
Do any of the artists on the CD perform the songs at their shows?
[Johnny Blair] I do and then some.
[Lee Rude] I sometimes play the song live, although "Cremation" can be a bit "heavy"... depends on the crowd.
[Agent Geoff] To date the Special Agents have not yet performed "All Tomorrow's (Beach) Parties" as part of our live set... though we may be open to bribery, cajoling, bullying or legal threats.
What kind of reaction have you been getting from the music industry?
[Mark Doyon] Well, it has just come out, but we will see how the critics like it. We are getting orders from both America and Europe. I hope it encourages Lou Reed fans to take a break from spinning records, pick up a guitar and a pen, and write a song of their own. Like Lou.
[Agent Geoff] The Special Agents have been lucky enough to get airplay on a number of radio stations around the world, and interest in our music seems to be growing all the time. Our next project is providing music for the soundtrack to a new spy movie called "Wilson Chance" which should be out in the Fall. This is a very exciting departure for us, and we are keen to do more film and TV soundtrack work in the future.