RICHARD LLOYD: Classic Riffs Served Strange.
Guitar Player, May 2001
By Michael Molenda
"The guitar is like a cuisine," says Lloyd, "and you can't expect people to eat the same thing all the time."|
"Television was the only band of its ilk that treated the guitar with delicacy, not as simple rhythm support for teenage aggression," says Lloyd of his influential 70's band.
It's a tough lick, but it's immersed in so much rootsy classicism that the "heard it all before" side of your brain gives it scant notice. But strange, unsettling clinks grate against the familiar riff, and suddenly you're listening. Then a flurry of notes threatens to disintegrate into a bowl of clams, yet everything holds together.
In just 15 seconds, "The Knockdown" - the song that opens Richard Lloyd's new "The Cover Doesn't Matter" (Upsetter) - telegraphs the urgency, old-school cool, and twisted artistry of the ex-Television guitarist. "It was an accident," says Lloyd of the tune's intro lines. "I had written this driving riff for a movie soundtrack, but the part didn't get used. When I revisited the riff for my album, I was just going to put some leads on top of it, but I started slapping the guitar. I thought, 'Well, that's cheesy,' so I stabbed the strings with the pick instead. It was just one of those things. You're sitting in the studio thinking 'What am I going to do with this?' Then you play around and keep your ears open because you never know what's going to happen."
Whether by accident or design, Lloyd's intro riffs harken back to a time when songs grabbed listeners by the ears within seconds of blasting out of their car radio. However, Lloyd doesn't achieve instant seduction with multi-layered bombast or cascades of signal processing. His intros are typically constructed of two guitar tracks and straight amp tones - although, at times, the sounds are coloured by an Ibanez Tube Screamer or an MXR Dyna Comp.
"To me, the coolest riffs are composed of two guitar parts that interlock like gears," explains Lloyd. "You need both parts to make whole. I work things out on an electric that's not plugged in to make sure a good tone isn't forgiving a part that couldn't stand up naked. Only after the parts are written will I struggle to fins a tone that supports the creativity."
Lloyd's minimalism extends to his choice of guitars. His main guitars are a '61 Fender Stratocaster and a '60 Fender Jazzmaster, and he depends on a Line 6 AX2 212 for his amp tones.
"That Strat is pretty well known as my guitar," says Lloyd. "Some kids brought it to a Television show in 1975, and they also sold us some amps from the trunk of their car. It has a wonderful rosewood neck, and after 40 years the hand-wound pickups have acquired a sound that replicas just can't get - a very warm tone with a lovely growl. Because it has a sweet, singing sustain, I use the Strat for solos and the Jazzmaster for rhythm parts. The Jazz has a nice raspiness, so pitting the two Fenders against each other makes for a good blend of tones.
"I discovered the AX2 when someone suggested I get a Pod. I liked the Pod so I got the company's flagship amp, and the Pod went back into its box. Initially, I used the AX2 to cast amps for the album. I'd dial up a Marshall sound, fully intending to replace the model with the real thing. But then I got lazy and ended up using the model. That was funny, because I'm one of those guys who had to be dragged kicking and screaming out of the analog world. I can still hear the 'digital-itis,' as I call it, but you can soften the digital timbre - and get a more rounded and natural sound - by running a stompbox into the amp. I don't use effects much, but I'll plug in a Tube Screamer. All I really want is a nice clear, clean signal."
Lloyd's tone obsession starts at his strings, where he has been reunited with a past love. "I'm crazy about Ernie Ball Classic Slinky Pure Nickel Wraps (gauged .010 - .046)," he says. "It was quite a shock when I bought a set and put them on, because I suddenly remembered how disappointed I had been when companies started making strings from steel. The nickels are immediately warmer, and they don't have that awful brightness you have to work out of them. You can put on a set right before you play, and they sound instantly beautiful."
An aspect of Lloyd's approach - one that is sadly becoming more and more unique - is his immersion in the danger of the moment. Far from being carefully worked out, Lloyd's solos often veer perilously close to implosion. "Some-one called my style 'sense of urgency' guitar playing," says Lloyd, "and I've always admitted I often don't know where I'm going when I solo. But that desperation is what makes it exciting. I mean, you don't go to the circus because every act is utterly safe. You go because the trapeze artist might fall. That's the whole thrill. When I take a lead, I'm digging for gold, and if I find it, I'm just as surprised as the listener."