Dave La Rue (Flying Colors)

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Interview with Dave La Rue

by

John Wenlock-Smith

 

 

album 2JWS: you’re in your studio with all your basses that I can see

DLR: Yes here’s where I work with my basses and my console and everything

JWS: how do you feel Second Nature compares to the debut Flying Colors album

DLR: Well I think It’s obviously a little more prog than the first album and that wasn’t deliberate it just turned out the way, The writing process for this band is very organic we get together and start thing ideas around and arranging tunes, we really strive for things the w like, that we think are really good as opposed to “we need this kind of song to make the album like this”
We see what we come up with and that’s the product

JWS: It’s a different beast to the first album in some respects

DLR: It is yes, It was really kind a fun touring us did almost every song off this new record and a bunch of tunes of the first album, so the comparison was pretty stark right there but I enjoyed playing stuff off both albums it was a lot of fun

JWS: How did this European tour compare to the last time around?

DLR: It was very similar in that we played several of the same venues- not in the UK though the main difference for me was the material, playing the second album the material is more atmospheric some longer tunes a little darker in places but we had a good team, good venues, great crowds and a lot of fun was had by all

JWS: You’ve recorded it again for another live CD / DVD haven’t you?

DLR: We Recorded two shows one in Paris one in Switzerland and the powers that are deciding what do with all that and what we are using I’ve e not heard any feedback yet so I don’t know yet but something will certainly surface

JWS: That will be good as the first live album was great,

DLR: That was fun to as we threw in a load of different material from everybody made it interesting

JWS: So what were you up to before this Flying Colors CD and Tour?

DLR: well I’m doing a lot of recording projects a bit of producing as well but the last gigs I did were with the Steve Morse band who were out with Joe Satriani for about six weeks or so, that was actually last year and that was the last major tour I did but here in Florida have a really cool trio that I lead, and we’ve been doing gigging building up some fans and we’re going to tour next spring

JWS: Is that a Jazz type fusion thing

DLR: Its instrumental fusion, it rocks pretty hard but it leans towards Jazz fusion, I’m trying between now and New years to finish my solo record, which the guys are playing on as well as some other folks so obviously we want to get out and tour behind that when it comes out

JWS: Sounds promising

DLR: Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, it’s a trio, it’s very challenging for me and I have a lot to do in it

JWS: Is that Guitar, bass and Drums or Keyboards, Bass and Drums?

DLR: Guitar

JWS: So a different type of playing than to Steve Morse perhaps…

DLR: Well it’s more similar to that than to Flying Colors obviously cos there are no vocals and it a guitar trio and where Steve might lean to some Bluegrass type thing we would lean more toward the Jazz Side

JWS: That’s’ your roots Jazz

DLR: Oh a Lot, well I’ve always played in a lot of different bands playing a lot of different styles one of the things I really like doing as I get bored easily. So I like having some diversity in my career so to speak, it’s different but I like all of them and Jazz was a big part of what I did early on.

JWS: Yes – you were at Berkelee weren’t you?

DLR: Yes I was, does it show

JWS: Yes, you know your stuff your theory and stuff

DLR: That’s where I got grounded in Jazz, when I was in school there was a big jazz emphasis Improv theory and all that stuff was taught from a Jazz perspective so I grew to love that kind of music and I still Play it, I don’t really play “Standards” anymore except with my students Teaching them to play over those tunes and changes but yes it’s definitely a part of who I am

JWS: An interesting background to come from I think , I’ve just been listening to a compilation of Brand X Stuff all their virgin output and it sounds great

DLR: Wow I’ll have to get that

JWS: It’s called Nuclear Burn – the first six albums and some live radio stuff

DLR: I’m going to check that out when we finish …

JWS: IS there going to be a third Flying Colors album, does it look good for a third one?

DLR: Yes It does, there’s no guarantees as everyone is so busy but we are already talking about that and everybody is really up for it and so as far as the band is concerned definitely yes we all really enjoy working together and creating this music so the odds are high that there will be a third record .

JWS: Flying Colors has two of the busiest men in Prog, Mike and Neal they don’t stop I bet mike doesn’t even stop when he’s asleep !

DLR: Yeah Mike’s a high energy guy doing a million different thing and Steve also really busy too with Deep Purple , they stay real busy so that’s one of the hang-ups with Flying Colors is we are all doing so many Projects It’s hard to find a time when we are all free.

JWS: It probably has its benefits too though in that when you do get together its fresh and worthwhile it’s not just a staid rehash of old formula’s is it

DLR: For sure for sure it’s always fresh when we get together because it’s so rare id od think and we talked about this on the road, everybody is trying to make a little more time for Flying Colors so we can do some more extensive touring, it’s probably not going to turn into a fulltime project anytime soon but we definitely want to devote a little more time to it

JWS: I think the way the industry has changed, it’s become a bit more project based, a band has such a hard time making a living as a full time but and let’s is brutally honest here, and projects are possibly a better revenue stream

DLR: Exactly that’s a good observation, at least in the circles I travel in that’s the case

JWS: Prog fans tend to be older guys like me with more disposable income and are always up for a show or a dvd or a special edition or something

DLR: That’s a way to keep it fresh mix it up a little, you see Neal and Mike in their normal thing then we Steve and I and it’s a different ball game altogether, and Steve’s fans also want to see us in that particular configuration so it keeps us fresh and gives us new product, to get out there with.

JWS: Yes I understand that that you have to get new stuff out in order to put bottoms on seats etc. unfortunately the days of the huge bands and the billion dollar tours are pretty much over in some respects

DLR: It Seems so yeah, those band that do that now aren’t even playing music its all dance track and stuff like that, it’s a circus, rather than seeing a live band

JWS: When I saw you on your debut tour I was seeing something unusual five musicians of calibre, pedigree and history and legacy working together on something new which was fantastic to see, I think a lot of people like to see these sorts of projects

DLR: We like to do that, it was really intriguing for me obviously I’d worked with Steve (morse) a lot and Mike (Portnoy) on quite a few projects, but I hadn’t worked with Neal (morse) and I was quite excited about that prospect and see what came out of that grouping and it’s been great

JWS: Casey’s a great vocalist as well isn’t he?

Main2DLR: Yes, I don’t mean to slight him as I keep leaning towards the instrumentalists, but Casey is an amazing addition and none of us knew going except Mike, what he did and how good he was and whilst he’s not considered to be, like a virtuoso, the rest of us are considered as high calibre muso’s or whatever, I don’t want to say the wrong thing here …

JWS: You were going to say virtuoso which is fine, you’re all at the top of your game

DLR: I didn’t want to put that title upon myself and the others, I guess you could call him a virtuoso singer but we didn’t know and he adds so much to what we do 

JWS: Lets ask about the album, but I don’t have it so I’ve only seen the front cover but not the lyrics or the inside so what’s the cover all about

DLR: Well the cover came out of Hugh Syme (Rush illustrator) did the cover but there were a few changes along the way and really it got down – initially we weren’t pleased with some ideas and concepts that other people had done and the he presented that concept and really it was kind of a deadline thing like alright we like that – I don’t think there is anything to read into that apart from he was playing with the Second Nature concept

JWS: Still very striking though

DLR: It is we very pleased with it and were glad he ended up with that and we all like that but we were starting to wonder what we were going to do

JWS: A good cover is still a bonus and a good selling point though

DLR: I agree, you and I come from the generation where we had LP’s and I used to love listening to a new record looking at the cover and reading the liner notes, that was part of the experience for me I miss that with all the downloads and stuff

JWS: That’s the problem – I’ve had this same conversation with Steve Hackett, when he was growing up he’d go on the tube into London and buy albums and he’d be on the tube waving the album around as if to say look I bought this album by so and so but he couldn’t listen to the damn thing till he got home l40 minutes away from London ( DLR: Laughs) or whatever and yes it’s nice having the instant download but it’s great to have a good album cover as well with all the information on

DLR: I Agree

JWS: let’s talk through the album and get your reflections

DLR: Sure but I’m always bad with titles though

JWS: Open up your eyes, I love that track it goes lots of different places as I mentioned I like diversity To me it’s just an epic piece with lots of different segments to it, I remember the opening, oh yes there’s a lot of stuff there and on the heavier side, I love that track it’s a great opener for the concert

DLR: Mask Machine, it’s a shorter poppier thing, very simple ditty with some cool parts and it was our first single and we all thought that right away, I remember cutting the bass part and wondering what I ought to do because the simpler the better that’s what worked for me –so I popped through that tune giving it some drive, the more notes I played the sillier it got, but there is a cool prog bit in there and a dark section in the middle

JWs you mentioned overplaying there, is that a big temptation?

DLR: when I’m able to sit down and experiment with the tune, doing we overdub thing generally we make templates we work and we make a basic track and then we add the final drum tracks to that and then I get it and I get a chance to experiment which is nice, so I really try to see what is going to work best in the tune I try to approach it musically almost think as a producer and add where I think the tune needs it and if that requires me to add several notes or play busier
Several of the tunes later on had very basic bass lines and when I listened back I through I need to add something to the song there just not enough going on its boring so there I tried to create more contrapano lines or busier lines that enhanced the tune but when I tried different approaches on Mask Machine it all seemed stupid so the coolest thing was to play with a pick and just drive the tune and that’ what It needed and the drum track kind of reflects that as well apart from the drum solos of course. He goes nuts there but really try to think musically when I’m creating the bass lines and as I said it’s a luxury to be able to sit back and actually experiment and see what’s working and what helping and what’s not helping

JWS: What about One love forever, that’s a bit of an epic isn’t it?

DLR: Yes that’s a really cool thing Steve’s got that Celtic thing going on, it came out of a groove he created, to me that’s one of the most fun things on the album because it’s a different kind of groove but also a groove heavy tune I just like the feel of It, it was one of my favourite ones to cut its in three but it grooves hard but I like it.

JWS: the one I like most is peaceful harbour

DLR: Oh that’s a beautiful tune – that came out of a Casey thing from the previous tour he built it up and Steve threw some stuff in then Neal did some amazing work with the production work bringing in the background vocals and adding some great keyboard parts and Steve just soars over the top of the whole thing.
That tune really moved the crowd when we did it live, it’s very dynamic it goes from quiet to loud and builds continuously with this huge guitar solo at the end, a soaring guitar solo, Neal had sampled the background vocals or a choir type thing so it got really big, it was a very emotional thing people really like it and a great song to play live.

JWS: On the first album I really enjoyed Everything Changes and that has a similar sort of feel but I do think Peaceful harbour is very clever and a great song

DLR: It wasn’t on the original song list for the tour but Neal piped in and said how come we aren’t playing this they’ll love it and he was right it went down really well

JWS: It’s a great one

DLR: it was almost the peak of the show we played it about 3/4/ or 80% of the show and it bought the house down every night.

JWS: Cosmic symphony the other long one that closes the album out

DLR: It’s a different type of tune to open your eyes, it’s a lot darker and it goes in to five times in the middle and has peak and valleys there a lot of mood and atmospheric s in the songs one of our more prog songs, it also went down very well live.

JWS: So next for you is releasing your solo album I guess

DLR: Yes everything is written some tracking is done there is some overdubbing to be done, I’ve got to bring my band in and also a few guest soloists to add too but that will be done before the end of the year

JWS: Is that an independent release or through another label

DLR: Well I’m with an Indie label called Holographic records in Cleveland Ohio and it looks like we might have a distribution deal for it, I’m hoping that comes through, they did well with my first record and they can get some press and stuff it will be on their label

JWS: I’m sure if it got sent to us we’d be happy to review it for you

DLR: It’s not too jazzy it’s not Jazz jazz one of the tracks is really heavy it’s almost metal I’d love to send it to you if you wouldn’t mind

JWS: Sure a lot of our guys like King Crimson and the way they’ve moved over the years to a kind of fusion sound at times

DLR: Tony (Levin) has a bit of a jazz background he brings that into the mix

JWS: You’ve never been tempted to use a chapman stick

DLR: I’ve tried one but it’s not for me I prefer four or five strings – I grew up on four strings, some of the gigs I’ve done and do when I work with John Petrucci and the Planet X gigs it’s all five strings, I have a six string that I’m using on a few tunes on my record so I play that as well and Fretless I have a great five string Fretless that I use on a lot of recordings as well

JWS: Any Fretless on Flying Colors

DLR: only on cosmic symphony ion the background, I love fretless as it’s very expressive

JWS: you have to be precise though

DLR: That’s true the intonation is very important

JWS: Hit the wrong part of the string you’re out of tune

DLR: all my Fretless one have markers that keep me in tune, Live I like to have that to rely on especially if the band gets loud pitch can get funny what you’re hearing can get kind of strange so I like to have a point of reference to know I’m pretty close.

JWS: Although only about3% of the people would know

DLR: Yes but I would know and you have to play for yourself and you bandmates I can never listento anyone when they say you were great as I’m thinking well I missed that note and messed that part up

JWS: Are you hash on yourselves

DLR: Well I’m always evaluating the situation I wouldn’t say it was harsh but I’m always aware and constantly working to correct things that I didn’t do well and to do things better all the time once you start on the road things grow, the band gets tighter you know the songs better and I’m just trying to improve, practice warm up and I have a check list of things to consider when I play

JWS: Well Dave I’d better let you go thanks for your time

DLR: well thanks John for talking with me it’s been great, my pleasure thanks for having me

Website www.davelarue.com