Proto Idiot Vs LOVE – The Interview
This summer sees 10 years since Arthur Lee, the leader of seminal ’60’s band LOVE, passed away. To mark the anniversary and celebrate the music of LOVE, Arthur’s longest serving band join forces with original founding member and lead guitarist Johnny Echols to tour the UK as LOVE revisited. Performing classic songs from the band’s first three albums, the tour sees Manchester garage punks Proto Idiot in support, whose new album ‘For Dummies’ has recently been released on Bad Paintings. Ahead of the tour, Andrew Idiot and Johnny Echols had a chat and got to know each other:
January was a pretty good month for Proto Idiot. First we found out Bad Paintings would be putting out our new album For Dummies in the summer – which, for a bunch of chumps like us, is a big deal.
Then, as if that weren’t enough, we were asked to tour the UK with LOVE revisited. It was the sort of month where you seriously consider playing the lottery, foraging for four leaf clovers and generally pushing your luck as far as possible because, heck, you’re on a roll and fate is your friend.
Why are we so pumped to play with LOVE revisited? Well, because it’s Love isn’t it: the guys who created the Los Angeles scene in the ’60s, bashed out hard-edged hits like 7 and 7 Is and created the archetypal flower-power pop record with Forever Changes. Who wouldn’t be excited?
Added to that is the fact that we take a lot of musical inspiration from Love, especially their first eponymous LP (by musical inspiration I mean we’ve borrowed from them as blatantly). Listen to our track Idiot Blues and – hopefully – you’ll hear that same immediacy that makes Love songs such as My Flash on You and Can’t Explain so infectious.
The final cherry on the cream-and-sprinkles-covered-ice-cream-fudge-sundae came when we were asked to interview Love guitarist Johnny Echols…and if he could ask us a couple of questions in return. Once we’d finished telling all our friends, family and strangers in the street, we got to it.
We’ve split it into two parts, with us interviewing Johnny as Side A and Johnny Interviewing us as Side B. Enjoy!
Andrew Idiot: How does it feel to be playing songs you first performed 50-odd years ago, for an entirely new audience?
Johnny Echols: I think it’s fantastic that LOVE is still considered relevant and have been discovered by a whole new generation. However, I’m also grateful to have remained a part of the lives of so many folks from “back-in-the-day” as well, which gives us the best of both worlds.
Andrew: What’s it like playing Love songs without Arthur – is it strange not having him there?
Johnny: Actually… It’s kind of bitter-sweet, Arthur was such a major part of my life, so going on stage and playing these songs without him feels a bit strange at times, even surreal. But as a whole, I’m having an absolute blast, secure in the knowledge that I’m doing exactly what Arthur as well as Bryan and Kenny would want me to do… keeping the music of LOVE alive.”
Andrew: How did the unique Love sound come about?
Johnny: Arthur and I had rather eclectic musical tastes, in that we both loved Jazz, Blues, Folk, Rock & Roll, Old Standards and even Classical music… so we tried to express those influences, in the music we wrote and played. After Bryan Maclean came on board, we gravitated toward a more “cerebral” type of music, essentially melding poetry with acoustic and electric guitars, which was unique to us at the time. And that became known as the “LOVE” sound, but from my perspective, we remained true to our roots in that we explored many different genre’s of music”
Andrew: What are you most looking forward to about touring in the UK again?
Johnny: I’m looking forward to reconnecting with the folks who have supported LOVE all these many years, we couldn’t ask for a more supportive and loyal group of friends.
Andrew: Opposite question: what are you least looking forward to?
Johnny: That would be “jet lag” it usually takes me some time to get my bearings after crossing the pond. Being a working musician my whole life, I usually retire at around 3AM (Los Angeles time) which is 11AM London time. It’s also a bit different, having baked beans for breakfast, that being said, I love English food and the hotels are simply fantastic.
Andrew: You’ve played with some amazing musicians over the years (Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Billy Preston etc). Who was/is your favourite person to play with, and why?
Johnny: Billy Preston was one of my all time favorite musicians to work with. Billy, was an extraordinary organist/pianist, gifted with absolute perfect pitch and was simply a joy to work with… everyone played better just by being on stage with him. As a matter of fact playing with Billy in high school convinced me to pursue music as a career rather than accepting a full academic scholarship to University of California at Los Angeles.
Andrew: It’s 10 years since you were last on tour in the UK. What have you been up to since then?
Johnny: I having been playing as LOVE (revisited) with phenomenal musicians, Mike Randle, Rusty Squeezebox, Dave “Daddyo” Green, and Dave Chapple. We’ve toured the U.S. as well as becoming a fixture in L.A. area clubs.” I’ve also continued working as a studio musician, something I’ve done for many years.
Andrew: In a couple of interviews you talked about putting out Love’s unreleased Gethsemane album. Is that still the plan?
Johnny: Completing and releasing Gethsemane is one of my main goals in life. For those who are unaware, Forever Changes was slated to be released as a double album, featuring a complete disc of songs written by Bryan and me, but due to financial considerations Elektra records reneged at the last minute, so we wound up recording FC as a single album. I’ve been working off and on… on what would have been the second part of the unfinished set, for a number of years and hopefully it will be completed in the relatively near future.
Andrew: What advice would you give to a band like us (a band just starting out)?
Johnny: I would suggest you play as often as you can, so that performing in front of an audience becomes second nature… there’s nothing like the experience one gains from playing live.
Andrew: Anything else you’d like to add for all the Love/Johnny Echols fans out there?
Johnny: I would like to reiterate how appreciative I am of the phenomenal support we’ve received from our friends in the UK for more than fifty years. We’re so looking forward to once again performing for the greatest audience’s on the planet.
Johnny: What made you decide to go old school with a sound that some might describe as “neo” garage band music, with a “proto-punk” edge?
Andrew: It wasn’t a decision really. Whenever I try to make music it, no matter how sophisticated my intentions are, it always comes out sounding a snotty, weird and wonky. Callum and Mike (drums and bass) are pretty amazing musicians and arrangers, which brings the standard to something approaching professional.
Johnny: How did you come up with such a bodacious name?
Andrew: The concept behind it is that we are not quite idiots yet, we’re still working towards it (hence Proto Idiot). It is a name I’ve used on and off for various projects for nearly 10 years now, and I think it suits the spirit of the band.
Johnny: Who were some of your major influences… are you into the Seeds, the Sex Pistols etc?
Andrew: We’ve each got our own influences. Mike can’t get enough Paul McCartney. Callum’s got a thing for Thin Lizzy. Personally I love stuff from the 60s (Kinks, Love and Seeds like you say) as well the more off-beat music at the end of the 70s such as The Soft Boys, Wire and Wreckless Eric. As for that more straight-punk Sex Pistols sound…it has never quite done it for me, for whatever reason.
Johnny: Name a few of your favourite groups… then and now?
Then – Wreckless Eric, Television Personalities, Meat Puppets
Now – Parquet Courts, Royal Headache, Joey Fourr
Then – Paul McCartney, Nick Lowe, David Bowie
Now – I’d prefer to live in the past
Then – Thin Lizzy, The Band, Flat Duo Jets
Now – Jack White and Pokey Lafarge
Johnny: How were you able to get a record deal so soon after your group was formed?
Andrew: We’ve all been in bands before, which probably helped…and like I said, I’ve used the Proto Idiot name before for my own solo projects. But with this new lineup I think it was a mixture of good songs, a good sound and – most importantly – good luck.
Johnny: What’s it like being in a working band in the age of the Internet, with streaming, you tube, sound cloud, spotify etc.
Andrew: I think the idea of ever making any money out of it is something I just wouldn’t even consider now. In some ways that sucks – it would be nice to earn money from doing something you love – but in another way it is entirely freeing, because now there is no career pressure whatsoever: we can make music for ourselves, and then share it with as many people as possible online.
Johnny: What’s your favorite color… and what are your astrological signs? (just kidding)
Andrew: Green, Pisces…and I was born in the Chinese year of the Tiger.
Mike: Red, Aries…and believes in the power of water divination.
Callum: Purple, Cancer…I’m a fully paid up member of the Monastic Order of Avallon.
Johnny: What are your thoughts about opening for a bunch of old geezers like LOVE?
Andrew: We’ve all been brought up to be nice young men, so we’ll be respecting our elders and generally being well behaved (except on stage).
Check out the LOVE Revisited tour dates below:
Manchester at Ruby Lounge
25/06/16 Liverpool at Leaf
26/06/16 York at The Crescent
28/06/16 Norwich at Arts Centre
29/06/16 London at Jazz Cafe
30/06/16 Frome at Cheese and Grain
01/07/16 Coventry at The Empire
02/07/16 Southampton at The Brook
04/07/16 Brighton at Komedia
Check out the tour promo video below: