MILAN, Italy -- After nearly 30 years of creating some of the most
influential music in rock history, Lou Reed said he thinks that he's finally moving
in the right direction -- perfection.
But the artsy punk-rock icon and former leader of the Velvet Underground
doesn't see this as a time to celebrate or reminisce. Rather, with a new live
album on its way and a forthcoming album in the works, he's looking for the
perfect sound, he said.
Interestingly, for Reed these days that has everything to do with his new,
"Perfect Night Live is the result of a very beautiful guitar made for me by
[instrument artisan] Jim Olson. So beautiful I wanted to emphasize it," Reed said
in the press conference last Thursday in Milan to promote the release of his live
LP. "I got the band together to see if we could do that. I thought it would be
interesting to approach some of the old songs that way. And I was interested in
the purity of the sound, and we did a show which revolved around that sound."
The new double-album, Perfect Night Live (April 21), spans three
decades in the musical career of the former leader of the Velvet Underground.
The recording captures the essence of an acoustic performance from last July in
London and features Reed's guitarist Mike Rathke, bassist Fernando Sauders
and drummer Tony Smith. Together onstage they rip through old VU favorites
such as "I'll Be Your Mirror" and put their own personal touch on "Vicious" and
"Perfect Day," the 1972 song that Reed re-recorded as a benefit single with an all-star ensemble last year.
The double CD will be released in conjunction with the screening of the PBS
American Masters series documentary "Lou Reed: A Rock 'n' Roll Heart," due
"It's very interesting to be at this point of my career. I'm just taking advantage of
my experience. I'm starting to know how to do certain things. But I try not to look
back," he explained.
Instead, Reed is thinking of ways of making his new acoustic sound come to life.
Not only did Olson build Reed a custom guitar that he used to record the album,
but Olson also developed a special effect called a feedbucker box that allows
Reed and his gang to eliminate feedback squeal to create a pure sound even in
a live acoustic setting. "I've been interested in different recording techniques
that really don't interest other people very much," he said in his characteristic
baritone. "It's things like that sometimes are the reason songs get recorded. I'm
in love with beautiful engineering, and certain things are constructed by
engineers that are not only functional but beautiful. I also love good sound, and
want to have it on my records."
Reed used the device the night before, during the live taping of "Sonic," a local
MTV program, in which he performed three songs. Decked out in traditional
black, the shortish, curly-haired rock 'n' roller stood before about 300 people
packed into the television studio.
In his most unassuming manner, he quietly picked up his custom-built guitar
and strummed through some of the purest chords ever played, summoning the
melody to "I'll Be Your Mirror" and his single "Dirty Boulevard," off New
York. Later, he performed "Talking Book," one of the three new songs
included in Perfect Night Live.
"Talking Book," along with "Into Divine" and "Why Do You Talk," are taken from
"Time Rocker," the Robert Wilson play for which Reed wrote 16 songs.
Currently, there are no plans to record or publish all those songs, he said. "I
was hoping that 'Timer Rocker' would have a cast recording, but that hasn't
happened yet, I'm not sure about me recording it. I haven't made my mind up
yet. I'm recording it in pieces, as you can see."
He said that his next album, however, will likely have a couple more songs from
'Time Rocker.' "For what concerns doing a 'Time Rocker' album," he said, "that
I'm not sure. Maybe later."
Though he has no plans to tour to promote his live LP, he's scheduled to do
several festivals in Europe. "We're gonna play two festivals, one in Sweden,
one in Oslo, [Norway]," he added. "But there's nothing planned, because I'm
trying to write material for the new album."