Editor's Note: We do over a hundred interviews each year, and this year was absolutely no exception. In the past, some end up being lost in the mix. Since 2015 has gone on, we have ensured a way to make sure that this does not, in any way, shape or form, happen in 2016. With that being said, we are posting all of these lost interviews today. The first: Taylor Locke. And sincere apologies to Mr. Locke for taking so long to get this up. Thank you for the fantastic stories.
Among the legions of singer-songwriters that exist in the industry today, there are always a select few that stand out among the rest. Taylor Locke is one of them. Having been in numerous bands throughout his life, he has finally released a solo record, Time Stands Still. I spoke with Taylor about the making of the record, his video for "Call Me Kuchu", his connection to Kim Fowley, and more.
Let’s talk about “Call Me Kuchu”. When did you first see the documentary and what struck you most about it?
A friend of mine had made it. A fantastically talented named Kathryn Wright, who I went to high school with, directed that movie. I knew about it for years as it was in development. In the movie, they go over to Uganda, where the powers at be consider anyone who is openly gay to be a criminal. This guy, David, was the first openly gay man in Uganda. They were documenting his life and interviewing him. They packed up the cameras to come home and edit the film, and when they got home, they found out that he had been murdered. They went back to Uganda to get more footage after he had been killed.
The film is really, really powerful. Making my record, pretty much all of the songs except that song are written in a first person perspective. I call those “selfie” songs. (laughs) They’re kind of like love stories, or existential stories, or talking from my own point of view. It’s self-expression type songwriting. So I thought the record could use a topical song to diversify it and change things up a little bit, so there could be one song that wasn’t just about myself. It’s pretty dangerous territory trying to write a political song. I wasn’t like “oh, I have to try and write a political song or anthem,” but I had all these songs that were about me and girls and stuff like that. So I thought, “let’s try this”.
I dove in and took kind of a John Lennon-type attitude. It doesn’t define the whole scope of the record. Most of the material is more personal, but it was just sort of an exercise and taking a crack at something with a social issue, rather than just writing my own self.
How soon after viewing the film did you come up with the idea for the music video?
That’s a good question. I saw the movie, and I was pretty deep into writing for the album. I had just written another song for the album, which wasn’t that song. I thought, “God, why am I continuing to write songs about myself when I’ve seen such a powerful movie? Maybe I should try writing about that.” I was kind of burnt out on some of my subject matter. Some of go-topics, I felt, had been well-covered. I sort of challenged myself to write something based on that film.
It happened in one writing session. I co-wrote that song with a good friend of mine, Chris Price. We finished it in the day that we sat down to write it. I just kind of had it in my back pocket, as an acoustic voice memo on my phone. I was just thinking about how to do the production, and then I settled on this idea of doing a pretty obvious nod to “Come Together”/Beatles’/Abbey Road era stuff. I got together with the drummer and my producing partner. I said, “what if we did this song like 1968/1969 ‘end of The Beatles’ style”? We banged it out in a couple of days!
Let’s talk about the solo album. About how long did it take for the entire thing to come together?
That’s a great question. The answer is that I was between projects, and I never at any point said “I’m gonna go make a solo record, let me make ten songs and then let’s all get in the studio.” It all happened one song at a time. I have a recording studio that I own here in Los Angeles. I had some other stuff going on, some other projects that I was playing in. I had disbanded a prior project, and I did not really have a plan for a band, an album, or a style, or even a group of songs. It was probably the first time ever since I was twelve or thirteen that I didn’t have a particular, well-defined music project that I was working towards.
I met a guy named Kim Fowley, who has since passed away. His big claim to fame is bringing together The Runaways and Joan Jett. I was working on a little web interview show, and I interviewed him, and God…he blew me away. He was like a cartoon! Everything he did was a performance art piece. For him, getting out of the car and coming up the driveway…you’d think David Bowie came to your house. It was so grandiose! We just got to talking. In some circles, he has a pretty lousy reputation, and then in others he has fanatical super-fans. I’m only speaking from my own experience. I know some of the ugly things that have been said, but from my experience, he was a very encouraging force.
He said to me, “I’m gonna give you a folder of lyrics that no one ever put music to. Some of these date all the way back to the 70s.” He went through his filing cabinet, and he had tons of song lyrics. Some of them were on stationary, some of them were on typewriters, some were hand-written. He put together a folder of about twenty or thirty lyric sheets. And then I thought, “what if there was a band called The Fowleys, and all of our songs were based on unused Kim Fowley lyrics?” And he said, “I forbid you to use my name. You will not have a band called The Fowleys. You’ve already been in a number of bands. You need to man up and make a solo record. If you do that, I’ll tell people that we co-wrote and that you used my lyrics. I’ll champion you. But if you use my name [for the band], I’ll sue you, so you better make a solo record. I thought that was kind of funny!
I started digging through the lyrics and showing them to other songwriter friends of mine. His lyrics….it wasn’t like ‘verse/chorus/verse/chorus’, but it was more like loose, journal-form poetry lines. It wasn’t like “these are songs, we need a melody put to them.” It was a lot of work. Sometimes, I would just use the title for a song and then re-write all the words. Or I used a couple of lines, or a verse and then came up with a new chorus. That got the ball rolling, and then I put the folder away and didn’t use his stuff anymore. At that point, I thought ‘okay, maybe I am making a solo record.’
Around that time, a really great engineer and multi-instrumentalist named Kyle Frederickson entered the picture. He helps me run things at my studio. He plays almost every instrument, and is a fantastic recording engineer. We’d be renting out the studio. I’d be doing bits of recording, he’d be doing bits of recording. I’d have this song, and say “hey I got something. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve got a song. Can you set aside a couple days?” Then we’d do one, put it on the shelf, and then go about all of our other projects and jobs. Then I’d write another one and we’d get back in there and do it again.
I’d say it was about a year and half before I got up to seventeen or eighteen songs. I thought there were at least ten of those songs that hung together as a good record.
That’s an insane story. Not only is it a great story about the process, but the rock history that comes with it…
Yeah, I definitely cherish the folder. I was at his funeral and everything, and I speak to his widow from time to time. I visited him a lot when he was sick. Like I said, there have been unpleasant things written about him that were said since he passed away, but speaking only from my own personal experience, he was funny, kind, and very encouraging. I’d say, “shit, I play guitar, sing, and write, I’ve been in so many bands, what do I do here?” He’d say, “make a solo record!”
What kind of message, if any, would you like fans to walk away with after listening to your music?
Well, I’d say that we’re in a time where music and pop culture in general has a fast turnaround. You have a style [of music], it lasts for six months, and then it’s gone. We’re always going to need the “pump you up, let’s have a good time tonight” songs. I love when AC/DC does it, I love when the more pop/R&B groups do it. But I think, in the spirit of the singer/songwriter tradition, my record is kind of bare and personal. I think that most people have common experiences of just being people. Sometimes, I feel that writing really personal things can have broad appeal, because so many of us have been through similar things. I just hope that this a record that will be there for you over time, in the long run.
Now, there are other projects or band identities I have worked where there is a production aesthetic that works to create something modern. It’s informed by contemporary sounds and you’re kind of playing that card. But for this record, I just left it very simple, so that just the voice and the lyrics can be up front. Maybe this is a record you put on during a Sunday morning during the winter, maybe five years, ten years from now. It’s sort of a companion piece.
What does music mean to you?
(Pauses) Well…that’s definitely a big question. (laughs) There’s so many different levels and layers that a listener can choose to dive into. It kind of ties into what I said before about music that lasts. It’s your own place that you can go. It’s not a movie, where everything’s in front of you visually. You sort of make your own pictures in your mind. Some people are really moved by sound. Some people are drawn in by lyrics, or both.
For me, as a listener and a fan, it’s about an experience where there’s going to be an emotional response to the sound and melody, but then there will be a response on a deeper level, if you want to get into [talking about] great lyricists.
As a musician and someone making it, it’s a club, a society, a place to belong. I remember this feeling from my childhood like it was yesterday, where I felt that I was never going to meet anyone that was as into [music] as I was. All these kids had different hobbies and things that their parents wanted them to do. I just thought, “God, if anyone cares about guitars, rock n’ roll, and records as much as I do, I’d be shocked.” I thought, “everyone is just going to be into surfing, rock-climbing or being a great student, and I’m never going to find anyone whose as into music as I am.”
As an adult, I’m still sort of pinching myself that there’s other people as into this as I am. We get together and do this together. It’s a camaraderie, a club, a not-so-secret society. It’s a brotherhood/sisterhood of these people that have this same passion, and manage to keep it going throughout their whole life.
There was this kid in the fifth grade who had a bass. He was taking a couple of lessons, and he was the only kid I knew who “played bass”, so I wanted to be in a band with him. But he was into so much other shit (as you should be in fifth grade; perhaps I was a little too singularly focused), and his Mom and my Mom would talk about hanging out and how we were spending our time. It’s like we would almost have a trade-off or compromise. I was like, “if you bring your bass over and learn some of the same songs I know so that we can play them together, than in exchange, I’ll skateboard with you.” I literally had to trade activities with this kid in order to get him to play music with me. Twenty-years later, I’m still relieved that not everybody is like that dude. Some people really want to fucking play music.
For more music from Taylor Locke, visit www.facebook.com/taylorlockemusic
This has been another Shameless Promotion.