Richard Lloyd: Tuned In Alchemy -By: Liam Sweeny
Written by Staff on September 6, 2021
The first thing you learn about publishing is: 12 point, Times New Roman, double-spaced. Second thing you learn is that no one wants your memoir, unless you’re famous. But if you’re famous? If you managed to reshape the landscape of American culture from stages and studios, then you’ll find you have three pounds of gold between your ears.
Richard Lloyd is a founding member of the seventies groundbreaking group, Television. His memoir was released a few years ago, but it’s past the initial rush when adrenaline pushes the answers to a million questions. It’s had time to breathe, and all involved time to reflect.
I sit down with Richard Lloyd and we discuss obscure grammatical minutiae.
RRX: Everything’s Combustible: The Memoirs of an Alchemical Guitarist came out in paperback in February of 2019, and in other forms over the past few years. But none of those are when you slapped ‘T-H-E E-N-D” on the file, or the manuscript, or the backs of five-hundred pizza boxes; however it went. When was that, and did you celebrate in any way?
RL: I had to read it then, aloud, for the digital, for people who like to read books. When I was done with that, I was, Whew, because it took about twelve hours, all told, to read the book out loud. After that, it was back to work – no rest for the wicked.
RRX: You are one of the founding members of the legendary New York band, Television, and while I’m asking about your book, not mentioning that is talking Moby Dick without mentioning whales. Television has had an indelible impact on not just bands, but genres. Did you at all feel the weight of that would impact the simple telling of your story?
RL: Television isn’t the whale, first of all. It’s a band, and I’m very proud to have been in the band for thirty-five years, and I have nothing negative to say about the experience. Much like getting a nice crew into a flying saucer, and having fun all over the place and playing music, as one could’ve called it, ‘not of this world.’
RRX: You’ve had a solo career, on and off since Television first disbanded in 1978. You’ve produced a solid number of solo albums, and except for drums, you’ve had your hand at every instrument. I imagine a solo career gives you more control over your sound, but is it more or less difficult, do you think, to market a solo career?
RL: Oh, it’s much more difficult. Been told by individuals, ‘we’re signing bands, not artists.’ Of course, a lot of people get signed as individuals, and then accumulate a band around them. So I guess it’s six of one and a half dozen of the other. Nowadays, I have a band. And I’ve had the same band for a couple of years, and it feels very good to be able to be in a band; it’s like being in a tank – you know it’s firm, it rolls, and it does well. So I’m happy about that. It’s terrible having to scramble for backup musicians and people to play various other instruments. And I don’t like to go out alone.
RRX: I’m a new fan. I have my nose buried in my computer all day, so I live under silicon, which is a rock, sort of. New fans don’t really have that “bond with the band.” That older fans have. Do you think new fans have things in common, demographically, with older fans, or is it a different set now?
RL: I don’t think it’s about any of that, I think it’s the fact that as things mature, that period of puberty – whatever gets in at that time becomes the central core of their lifetime listening experience. For instance, I was born in ’51, so when I grew up, I was a little older than hippies, but a little young to be a beatnik. So I was in, like, a stranded zone between those two cultural events, or movements. So I basically acted like a voyeur of the social movements that took place. I didn’t participate in either, really.
RRX: As I said above, a lot, a metric ton of bands have been influenced by Television, and you were a node in the evolutionary tree of alternative rock. When you hear one of the bands that have listed you, or Television, as an influence, are you flattered, or is it a weird feeling? Do you try to listen for the influence, or let it ride?
RL: Well, first I let it ride. If I hear something, I hear something. It’s honorable. If people aren’t ripping off the melodies and the structures completely, but the stylistic approach, I’m very proud of. And when I hear another band mention us as an influence, it’s rewarding.
RRX: This is where you get to answer the question I never asked. The City never sleeps, but does it take cat naps? Can you still buy the Brooklyn Bridge as long as you never claim it? Enlighten, educate, emote – the floor is yours.
RL: I’m going on tour in September, starting the 12th, so the second week in September. I stay out until the beginning of October. So if you’re in any of the areas where I’ll be playing, please come by and say hi. And enjoy the music. Because we’re well rehearsed and we haven’t played out in two years because of this viral thing. And I would hope people get vaccinated, and come and join us.