Article by Elizabeth Ramanand
Before his last two incredible performances at The Iridium, we sat down with outstanding guitarist Vernon Reid back stage after soundcheck. Reid spoke about the “Spirit of Les Paul” as well as how this musical trio came about with his friends Melvin Gibbs and Will Calhoun. He also dished on New Living Colour material and many other projects he’s a part of for the rest of this year. Check out our full interview with Vernon Reid below:
You’re no stranger to The Iridium, what keeps you coming back?
The spirit of Les Paul. He was the ultimate guitar geek, that’s pretty much it.
How did this trio come about with Melvin Gibbs and Will?
It’s kind of more of a family connecting vibe, I’ve known Melvin from nearly the beginning of my career and we’ve been playing together off and on for over 30 years. Of course Will Calhoun is the drummer of Living Colour. Will’s connection to Doug [Wimbish] (bassist of Living Colour) is very different and Will’s connection to Melvin is different and that’s all part of it. With all of the identities that we have, we also affect each other differently. When I’m doing my band with DJ Logic, I’m very different as a guitar player and where my head is.
What about who you are as a musician and person can we see and hear in this project that differs from other projects you have been a part of?
Part of the thing we do is we play a little of Ronald Shannon Jackson which is a real connection between Melvin and myself of how we kind of came up. Will was very affected by Ronald Shannon Jackson’s ideas as a young player. We also play the music of Sonny Sharrock and then there’s some originals, there’s some improvisation. It’s a real part of my involvement with rock and roll. Rock and roll is how you interpret it and I interpret it as an avenue towards freedom so for me coming from this whole idea of free jazz and free rock – Hendrix was incredibly improvisational so hearing Hendrix and hearing Miles Davis to me it’s kind of a connected thing. Hendrix was always pressing against these rules and he worked in the tradition but he also blew out the tradition and for me blues is a big part of my thing, worked into all of the other things.
Working with two other people that connect, I don’t have to explain what it is – there are talented musicians, many of them and in this situation you would have to tell them, “It’s okay.” WMV, VMW, it’s really about a connection, we chose the first letters of our names and the VMW if you put them together it’s just like one continuous line, a continuous zig zag going across the page.
What does the rest of this year have in store for you?
We’ve finally finished up ‘Shade,” and we have a few tour dates coming up. We’re going to be touring with Jane’s Addiction in July so that’s very nice. Right now I’m working on a soundtrack for a movie for Brad Lichenstein called There Are Jews Here which is about these dwindling congregations across the West, it’s very interesting.
How was the creative and recording process on this new album?
It was long and hard, we went through a lot of stuff but it’s good though. You can expect it out before the end of the year definitely, if we keep on track, probably by the fall.
The new album title ‘Shade’ has so many different meanings, what does this word mean to you personally?
What I love about shade is it’s grief and shade is relief, it’s both. Shade is like, “Man it’s so hot” then I’m in the shade and then there’s tossing shade. It’s all about darkness and or lightness, it’s all of these different things so it’s very much about those dualities and multiplicities.