Walter Lure is most well known for being part of The Heartbreakers (that’s Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, not Tom Petty’s band), one of the bands who spearheaded the first wave of punk rock. He’s still around though, making music & playing shows, one of which Louder Than War’s Martin Haslam attended last week & reviewed for us. Before the show he had a chat with the man himself, the results of which you can find below.
In my brief time writing for Louder Than War I’ve met some great people and heard some great music. So, when Alison Bateman, of Work Hard PR, asked if I’d like to see Walter Lure at Camden Underworld AND interview the great man, I jumped at the chance.
Once I’d found my way into The Underworld pre-gig (no phone signal: D’oh!), I was introduced to Walter. He was laid back, polite and nothing like an icon. Which in its way only makes him more of one. Sorry Walter! Thanks go to guitarist Jez Miller for arranging the timing to make this happen.
A surviving and thriving ex-Heartbreaker, a rarity in itself. A writer of genuine classics; see the re-issued Waldos ‘Rent Party’ for further proof. I wanted to avoid the usual Johnny-related questions and focussed on what I wanted to learn about Walter.
Louder Than War: Firstly, how was your recent gig at the Rebellion festival?
It was great. It was nice to play a festival without the mud, blood and mess. The stage was great, the sound was great. The food was shit, but that’s to be expected! So many bands coming and going, literally all day and night. We had a good time there.
Louder Than War: And what brought you back to the U.K this time? It’s tough for musicians to make a financially viable visit.
The same as the last time; our drummer over here, Ozzie, arranged it. He’d contacted me in 2010 and asked why I didn’t play here, to which I replied “’cause no one’s asked me”. He asked what I’d need financially to come over and play and said he’d call me back, which he did. The first time, I had no idea who they were; they could have been serial killers! They met me at the airport and took me to Birmingham and it went from there. I couldn’t come here last year, as I was playing Japan and some other dates, but I’m back now.
Louder Than War: Is Japan still a crazy place for you to play?
Yeah, it was great to play there. Two of my band in New York are Japanese. They have gigs there for underage kids. It’s like it’s skipped a generation. They say to me “I’ve loved your music since I was 14” and I’m thinking “when was that, last week?” But they have everything over there, all the Heartbreakers bootlegs. It’s not easy to get that stuff.
Louder Than War: I’ve read about your unconventional route into Wall Street. How did that begin?
Well, my dad was a banker his whole life. It started in the 80’s when the Heartbreakers had split. He knew brokers who were looking for temp workers. I started a couple of days a week. I still had some issues to get through from the old life. Then I became a full-time employee. Lo and behold, by the 90’s I’m in charge of 125 people. It was a back way entrance, I didn’t study. So, it helped to get me straight as well. I’ve been doing it for over 25 years now. People would come from the office to my shows and go “Hey, that’s my boss up there! Go figure”.
Louder Than War: I’d heard that you played guitar on three Ramones albums. It seems odd that such a control freak as Johnny Ramone would ask someone else to play guitar. How did that happen?
They were looking for a hit record. They made money from touring and merchandise but had never really had a hit. The working with Spector and different producers was to try and get a hit record. They liked the way I played and Johnny asked me to play with them. They gave me a ‘thanks to’ note on the album, but no other credits. I agreed to working at an hourly rate as a musician. On the first album, ‘Subterranean Jungle’, I went over and played with them for a couple of months and that’s when I got to see the band dynamic. Dee Dee was a flake, Mark was the drunk, Joey was out of his mind and Johnny was the control freak. I thought “Thank God I’m not in this band” but I learnt to get on with them all. It was a decent experience, they paid me what we’d agreed. I played less on the last two albums. Joey was always funny. The Waldos played with them a few times.
Louder Than War: Have you seen Billy Rath(Heartbreakers bassist) recently?
He came over the last time I played the U.K. He was talking about us doing a world tour to make some money, but I said to come to a show and play a couple of songs together. By then he was a real mess; he had teeth missing and his promoter had dressed him up like some kind of pirate. He said “No press at the airport!” which gives you some idea what it was like. I don’t hold it against him, but he’s got some serious health issues. He could barely talk by this point, barely play. It’s like his mind is going. it’s really sad.
Louder Than War: And finally, are you working on new songs to release?
There are some songs, but I need to put some time aside to record with some people at a studio at Long Island, near my home. It’ll clear out the cobwebs, but it’s timing again. the Waldos recorded at the weekends. There will be more stuff coming out.
All words by Martin Haslam. More writing by Martin on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.