around the songs of up and coming NYC based singer songwriter / guitarist
Lou Barlow, the 2009 CD release of Feels Like Centuries
introduces the sound and vision of Barlows debut recording
as True Nature. Produced and recorded up in Woodstock, N.Y. by drummer
/ percussionist (and founding member of The Spin Doctors) Aaron
Comess, this debut True Nature set may only contain five tracks
yet they are well worth hitting the replay button and reloading. Comess
has done some great production work in the past and he works up his
studio magic for Barlows first CD with True Nature. Backing
up Barlows modern rock compositions are first rate musicians
including David Bowies guitar ace Gerry Leonard, whose
sonic guitar sound drives Barlows songs and vocals into the
stratosphere with some otherworldly extrapolations. On bass here is
the legendary prog-rock bass icon Tony Levin, who adds in his
patented thundering backbone of sound. Theres also a trio of
backing vocalistsincluding Chris Barron, James Maddock
and Brandon Wildewho
add further coloration in places. Regarding the CD sound, Barlows
muse sounds greatly influenced by King Crimson circa 2000 and
Bowie, while at other times while drawing on a very hip, guitar-centric,
downtown NYC rock sound pioneered by Lou Reed, John Cale and more.
Fans of Bowies early 2000 work
with guitarist Gerry Leonard will get a buzz from Barlows atmospheric,
edgy rock vocal sound. Barlows web site is very interesting
and, echoing the sites very unusual photography and artwork
featuring model Tonya Kaye, the CD cover artwork of Feels
Like Centuries creates some very intriguing imagery all its
WEB EXPRESS 3000 presents
True Nature - Center Stage
a conversation with Lou Barlow
and Gerry Leonard
Nature is an ever evolving project or 'Moniker' for me as a solo artist.
It's very exciting for me to tell you about who is on the new EP but
I want to be clear that this is not a band. Oh, and while I'm at it,
I'm not the Lou Barlow from Dinosaur Jr. etc., it's all our mamas'
This has been an amazing run of studio dates to create Feels Like
Centuries, and I'm moved to share that it's been so well received
that myself, Aaron Comess, Tony Levin, Gerry Leonard and our loyal
engineer Roman Klun (just nominated for an Engineering Grammy in 2010)
have just recorded more songs this past summer to be released in early
So, Feels Like Centuries was recorded at the recently deceased
Flymax Studios in Woodstock NY, a great homelike environment studio
that I lived and slept in the same room where I tracked my vocals
in for days! It gave us a fairly big sound as you can hear, and it
was the perfect environment to first bring us all together.
Working with Aaron Comess as producer and drummer has been the best
musical experience of my life to date. In his words, 'it's about the
end result,' and I couldn't agree more. Feels Like Centuries
started with just me and Aaron and I think that Aaron, having been
on the road or in the studio with various great talent consistently
over the past 20+ years, has made his gut reactions to my song-writing
extremely useful as my producer. He is not a co-writer or a band member
or anything like that but what Aaron has recommended, especially on
the arrangement front, has not only been monumental in my book but
has inspired me to write, on the spot, these little extra mini sections
that make these songs really move and shine in a balanced way.
once heard Sting say something to the effect that he likes to be the
'worst' member of his bands, obviously a post Police statement! (laughter)
Anyway, so I understood and appreciated his statement especially as
a singer-songwriter, and having surrounded myself with world class
musicians, I'm adopting that attitude. I mean, you ask about my musicianship
and I'm thinking that it's more about getting the right musicians
together! I used to get into sessions for my songs and people would
naturally say, 'You have to tell us exactly what you want Lou.' And
I used to get so frustrated because Im an articulate dude and
after a while no words can explain it. So preproduction with Aaron
has become my new refuge. I can work out everything I need to there.
Then, once we get into the studio with Tony and Gerry it's all automatic
from there. A psychic kind of, 'Wow how did you know what I was feeling,'
kind of experience happens and a part of me feels, I've been looking
for this for a very long time ....
My stylistic, guitar parts play an essential role to my songs and
we've consistently built around them where they occur in the writing.
Basically, in certain sections I'm playing rhythm parts that have
a lead like quality to them yet work under my vocals. You'll
hear it especially on My Freedom Lies Behind The Sun,
there's this massive power rock guitar hook at the top of the verses.
In Too Close To See Who We Are, you'll hear this reoccurring
instrumental section that I eventually break into a Bono-esque falsetto
over but which has this Lou-esque guitar part underlying it...that's
a little more ummm Irish sounding actually.
Stay tuned on that front because the yet unreleased CD in many ways
is even more guitar heavy all round !
I was like 3 or 4, listening to this one Sonny Rollins jazz record
over and over, I wanted to play the drums and my dad always took me
seriously from a very young age. Somehow upon proving my interest
at the age of about 6 there was a cool Ludwig 4 piece set that I still
have 3 out of 4 pieces from and you'll all be happy to know that I
am in recent Facebook contact with the last holder of that missing
floor Tom !
Anyway, it was the 70s and the drums I was pounding on were
interrupting my Mom's meditations so she suggested that I try the
guitar. I was 8 years old. At present I'm known for my singing more
than anything, so I think I was led in a more 'melodic' direction...
I got myself into college playing classical guitar inspired by Segovia.
I nailed 'Layenda,' but just after freshmen year I gave up the classical
guitar. I went on in theory and composition to receive the NYU composer
of the year award for a solo piano piece in the avant guard genre.
I've played in bands my whole life starting in 7th grade and a few
years ago song writing with my Strat in hand was all I focused on.
Guitars & Gear
BARLOW: Ohhhh, this is definitely where it gets fun having Gerry
Leonard around... You really want to ask him this question, there
is absolutely no one on this planet like Gerry Leonard and... Wow
his set up is really elaborate. I'm just a Strat and a Vox, Bagels
and Lox kind of guy...
LEONARD: My main Guitars are Gibsons mostly old ones. I have a
69 Gibson Sg Custom that I have had since I was 16 and its a favourite
still. I like the darker sound. It's more moody. Although we used
a Les Paul (custom Shop) and a Teisco (great Lo Fi Gtr) for slide.
I have been using Mesa Boogie amps for a long time, They sound great
and are bullet proof on the road. Another favourite is a Soma Tone
roaring 40. Its a new amp from a small maker in NJ. Sounds killer.
Plug in and kill your neighbors cat amp. I use a combination of analog
pedals for Distortion and Delay and a TC G force for more exotic things.
I use a switching system from Ground Control to control everything.
what's so amazing is Peter Gabriel was hands down the first really
powerful influence where I felt an immediate sense of connection to
the human experience that Peter was coming from and successfully galvanizing
and touching in people's hearts around the world. I was also just
absolutely amazed by the sound of the So album. At the time
nothing like that was ever heard. I believe generationally there are
waves or moments in time where the hip amongst us is feeling or longing
in a similar direction for various things, love, justice, connection,
true understanding, evil overcome, spiritual recognition and on and
on. And a great artist like Gabriel not only hits the bulls-eye of
that collective emotion but also creates unusual, striking songs that
are just so totally fresh to everyone at that time; It forever moves
a generation. So, obviously having Tony Levin manifest for our recordings
is really quite something to me, more than I can simply state. Upon
hearing for example how Tony performed on especially the long Intro
of, "My Freedom Lies Behind The Sun," I suddenly realized
how unmistakable and characteristic Tony's sound plays an essential
role in Gabriel's' music and I was very taken back by the power of
artists I feel influence from most seemed to pick up from whatever
Peter Gabriel was tapping into: U2 & The Police are still my all
time favorites and these days onto Cold Play, Snow Patrol, both of
which I love. But the 'thread' I'm sensing is not a sonic or necessarily
stylistic similarity. I mean U2 and Gabriel musically share almost
nothing (except a few producers!) but the emphasis on what the human
heart goes through with a wishful global perspective in mind, is what
I feel these artists strongly have in common. I see a tipping balance
scale in my mind and Gabriel is that central balancing point for me.
There are ton's of musicians before and after Gabriel that have inspired
me greatly, if you want to talk about all that, but I think it's just
so important to realize when and where that inner shift happened where
I thought, 'This is what I want to do with my life.' And that was
Peter Gabriel for me.
GERRY LEONARD: I grew up in Dublin Ireland in bands. We used
to sit on our AC 30 to keep warm when we practiced in the singers
garage. I studied classical guitar for 5 years and learned electric
through friends and watching people. I learned piano first so still
see harmony this way. But a guitar is easier to get in the overhead
on the airplane.
this was quite a year for me because as an independent artist I had
to make a lot of decisions without referring to anyone. I'm an independent
artist but I'd really love to find that business soul mate big time.
I decided to finish the album instead of touring because there
was so much buzz from this EP.
I'm running Fire Sign records to release my music but I am looking
for major label backing, as well as management and good film placement
for my songs.
A lot of aspects have to be in place for a release to be successful.
I had to find and oversee the right PR, a few radio reps, various
web designers as well as web and blog promoters. In addition to all
that it was an honor that Glen Wexler accepted my offer to do the
album art for the, Feels Like Centuries EP. Glen has created
some famous album covers over the past 20 years and it's really amazing
to be a part of that too.
I can't wait to debut the yet unreleased songs. The new songs of course
were written after the Feels Like Centuries buzz started. So
the upcoming material was written from a place I'd never been in before.
I knew right where I could turn to for everything I would need once
my writing was done and that's a truly amazing feeling. I could finally
just go for it.
I'd like to open Fire Sign records to other artists but my plate is
overflowing right now as you can see.
"I'm trying to crawl to a future not so small," is a line
from the upcoming material that I hope leaves you with a good sense
of TRUE NATURE and where I'm trying to get to!