Gary James' Interview With Ian Lloyd Of

You know him best for his vocals on "Brother Louie", which went all the way to number one on the Billboard charts in 1973. But did you also know that he did session work with the likes of Billy Joel, Foreigner and Yes? We are speaking of course about the one and only Ian Lloyd. Ian talked about his work, both past and present.

Q - Ian, before I go back in time, what are you doing today? Are you still involved with your son's band, Social Hero?

A - Of course. Well, he's still my son. (laughs)

Q - Yes, he is. Is he still making music is what I want to know.

A - Oh, yeah. Basically, we just finished a three day weekend show in New Jersey, Connecticut and New York City. We are in the final throes of finishing up their second album, "Social Hero Two". Not sure what the title is going to be. We've got some great stuff happening there. I love the first album and this album rivals it, if not surpasses it in quality, especially because we came across and got hooked up with this fellow, Jason Cosaro. You might want to Google him. His discography is awesome. It ranges from Duran Duran to a Grammy for engineering "Girls Just Want To Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper, re-mixing Peter Gabriel tracks. He engineered Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" CD. You have to look to see all the things he's done. It's just amazing.

Q - What's his role in Social Hero?

A - He's co-producing with David Lloyd, the second Social Hero album. We're just about done. We've done all of the vocals. All of the tracks were finished. We're planning on doing MP3 staggered releases, you know, like two songs at a time. All the songs are great. I see people and talk to people and everybody's got a favorite track and it's always a different track. There's just so many good songs to choose from. It's just a matter of whether you like a ballad or you like to rock hard. It's crazy. That's going to continue. The drum sound sounds like Sound Garden. It's just humongous. Huge sounds. We're real excited. But we're gonna take 'em two at a time. I kind of suggested like back in the old days when there were 45s and you had an A and a B side. We have an A side and an even better B side. (laughs) Two A sides. We'll do little videos for them and promote and hit all the radio avenues that play around the world. That means we don't have to finish everything right away too. Then sometime next year (2013), when we've got everything released and all the chips lay where they may, we'll put out a hard copy and have a lot of perks on it.

Q - Ian, just how important is it to have Jason Cosaro as the co-producer of the Social Hero CD? What does he bring to the table?

A - He's bringing just all of his knowledge of course, and experience. It's crazy. We start talking and we've worked with so many similar people. He's bringing the sonics to it, the sounds are just awesome. All the guitar sounds. We recorded in New Jersey in an old church that was converted to his recording studio. Big rooms. Alternate sounds for drums. Just better recording sonically. He's helping direct the band. The fact that he loves us and what we're doing. You need to have that support from someone you respect and who has been around in the business.

Q - With technology being what it is today, you and your son didn't have to go into a traditional recording studio set-up. You could have recorded in a basement with your own equipment, couldn't you?

A - Yeah. I just think it's probably things I've taught him, things he's listened to in my career and all the things that I love musically that I've turned him on to. There's a sonic difference between things that are recorded today not in the studio. My last album was done in a basement studio. It was fun. I have a Christmas single I promote every year that is two years old now and we did this in our living room. It works great, but there's something to be said for getting into a really audioally high studio sound. We've got a very expensive German microphone here in our home studio. But when we go to The Barbershop, which is where we're recording in Jersey, they have a closet. You open that closet and they've got shelves of all vintage microphones. That makes a difference for a singer. We'll have maybe three, four, five mics out and we'll test each one to see if it's what we want for that particular song. So it's a lot of outboard gear. We've got virtual outboard gear in our Pro Tools systems, but there's just more. If someone knows how to use it, and Jason is the master of that... It's just exciting, and why not?

Q - Then there's the matter of radio promotion. Radio is not the same today as it was when you were coming up.

A - There is some good music. You don't really hear it on the radio. Every major city has its Classic radio station. People will hear "Brother Louie", thank you. Then there's whatever Rock station they have that plays Journey, Foreigner, but selected tracks, and it's always the same tracks kind of thing. Led Zeppelin had a lot of great songs. Why do we keep hearing only three of them over and over? (laughs) I know it's a playlist thing. We all love it, but there's so many great songs. Take any Classic band and there's always a lot of great songs. I think it's a computerized playlist kind of thing. I guess it doesn't happen or doesn't happen as often on Internet Radio. I'm not really sure what's going on there. I have found that a lot of those people do want to hear new stuff from me, getting the new Social Hero thing and stuff from my album. We put out Social Hero and Ian Lloyd stuff on Machine Dream Records, We just recently released a new band that my son co-produced with Jason Cosaro, Isle Of Rhodes. A really great, creative, different kind of Rock sound. So, we're promoting that.

Q - What venues was Social Hero playing in?

A - We actually went out with Isle Of Rhodes as a little package. We just play medium size clubs. We're doing what we can while we're spending most of the time trying to finish the album.

Q - Do you have a whole business team behind you? I'm talking manager, agent, publicist?

A - No. We're doing it all ourselves, which is very difficult. You talk to any artist and they seem to hate, for good reason, record companies, and their experience signing with record companies. Online basically gives you all those tools that record companies used. When I was signed to record companies, the majors, you would go into an office and you'd have your own little room with your own little team that would set up interviews with all the radio stations. Then you'd have another section that was just art. Another section was promotion. So, we have all those tools, but there's so much to do. It's very hard, for me anyway, to lock into all the things that need to be done. With having some new bands on the label, we're kind of incorporating some of the people they're working with into the entire record company thing. So, we're hoping that that will help things start to click in and become more compartmentalized.

Q - You were born in Seattle, weren't you?

A - Literally, just born in Seattle. I did not live there at all, ever. I came back to New York. But my relations are there so I go there a couple of times a year.

Q - What a reputation for musicians Seattle has!

A - Yeah. Soundgarden. Pearl Jam. Obviously Nirvana. The list is just awesome. The Foo Fighters recorded some of their albums right where my relatives live, Woodenville. One of their second or third albums done in a studio there.

Q - Are you a big Foo Fighters and Nirvana fan?

A - Yeah, I love them. I have all their records.

Q - When I heard "Brother Louie" for the very first time on the radio, I was struck by the fact that this was not the typical sounding Top 40 record. You were telling a story. Are you surprised at how successful it became?

A - Interesting question. I didn't write it and it wasn't the style of music that the band (Stories) had recorded on either the first or second album. "Brother Louie" was added to the second record after it had already been put out, printed, pressed, sent out. Then we recorded "Brother Louie" and stuck it on there. So the reason "Brother Louie" ended up there after the album had already come out was because the record company wanted me to find another record they could work with for Top 40. I literally sat in a room for a couple of days with the A&R guy at Buddah Records and we went through what, at the time I didn't think about much, was cassettes of demos. I mean, some were vinyl. When "Brother Louie" was played, it was crazy because when I heard it, I thought "that's different." Then they got to the chorus. As soon as they hit the chorus, I said "This is the one. This is the one we should do." Obviously I was surprised because you can think something's a number one record, but it won't be a number one record. But the fact that I had really been listening for two days to all this stuff and then heard that and said "This is a number one record," when it finally went to number one, I was surprised. I was kind of like, "Wow! I was right!" It was exciting. The other thing about that story, and probably a lot of fans know, the song was written by the band Hot Chocolate. That demo, or so I thought was a demo, was actually Hot Chocolate's UK single release of "Brother Louie", produced by the legendary Mickie Most. A tremendous career that man had. So, it was kind of crazy because I found out after the fact that it wasn't just another demo, it was a single that was being released in the UK. They tried to beat our release out in America. I guess the record company got it out just before they put it out and it just started going crazy. It exploded. Theirs wasn't going to happen here, although I'm a big Anglophile. It's kind of ironic for me of having that love of that music in that place, no one knows "Brother Louie" by Stories. Almost anybody else in the world would go "Ian Lloyd? Stories? Never heard of you." When "Brother Louie" became a hit, the record company stickered all the albums Including the hit, "Brother Louie". But the ones that didn't have "Brother Louie" on it also got stickered. (laughs) I literally would go out on the road after the first time and getting heat from fans everywhere. The next time I brought 45s of "Brother Louie" with me. I'd autograph it and give 'em "Brother Louie".

Q - Sounds to me if you have an album without "Brother Louie on it, you have a collector's album.

A - It would be a collector's item of sorts.

Q - How much promotion did the label give you? Did you tour?

A - Yes, we did. With the first album release, the record company, and as much as I have had things to say like everyone else, I have to say some good things. The record company signed us and our first single was "I'm Comin' Home", which was Top 40 Billboard and they really broke that single. They worked that song into the Top 40. When I say Top 40, I mean Billboard, which means it's Top 10 in a lot of areas. The graph marks it and it ends up Top 40. It was a hit in like a ton of places. The record company really promoted it and we had a tour budget. So, this is long before the second album. Forget about "Brother Louie" on the second album. The first album, we were out there playing and touring. We were locked into the machinery.

Q - How were you touring? By bus or were you flying?

A - It's tough to even remember. I know that when we were touring with the second album, before "Brother Louie" hit, we definitely would fly into Nashville and drive to Memphis. We were a New York City based band, so if it was drivable, we would drive or if it was necessary to fly then we would fly and then drive. It was promotional, but we did play a lot. Then when the second album came out, we were locked into it. As far as trying to answer how much they promoted it, it became number one. Back then, chart position had a lot to do with promotion, specifically the record company hiring Joe Blow in the Northwest to get that radio play on all the radio stations we needed to have it go higher in the charts. That was strictly record company.

Q - Were you headlining or in a support position?

A - We played so much, I really can't remember. I do remember some interesting shows and it was an outdoor festival in the South in the Summer. "Brother Louie" was a Summer record. I think on the bill was Ted Nugent, Focus, Boz Scaggs. At that show, they had so many good bands. Another memorable show where we opened, and this was like we were number one, Stories opened for Ike And Tina Turner at Candlestick Park. We flew in for that gig. Another show we opened for B.B. King and that was like in Maryland or some place. We probably opened more than we headlined. We played Carnegie Hall with The Raspberries. Before we went onstage, we were presented with our Gold record for "Brother Louie".

Q - That must've been nice!

A - Yeah. Another person. Another life. Another time. It was great.

Q - Who came up with this name, Stories?

A - It was Michael Brown and I. Michael's from The Left Banke and wrote "Pretty Ballerina" and "Walk Away Renee". Great talent. He and I came up with the name. I got together with Michael and he was signed to Buddah to put out an all piano, Rock And Roll album, which at the time in 1971 was kind of weird. So I visited him and heard some of the things he was writing for an instrumental piano album and started singing. Some of those songs became "Winter Seasons", "Hello People" and stuff that was on the first album. He's a great writer and we really locked in as a writing team. Those two albums have got some really great music. A very Pop, but with Progressive and Classical stuff happening behind it.

Q - What was your follow-up to "Brother Louie"?

A - Top 20, "Mammy Blue". Bigger hit in Germany than "Brother Louie". Partially because in Europe we split the charts a lot with Hot Chocolate's version. Back in those days you could have two different artists with the same song.

Q - That means you toured Europe?

A - Yes. After "Brother Louie", during that time, yes we did. We didn't do a lot. We would've liked to do more. We did play Amsterdam. We did a huge televised outdoor festival there. The only show we did in England was London's Speakeasy. I'm not even sure if we played. I think it was just a press party.

Q - Being from New York, did you ever cross paths with John Lennon?

A - No. I've never met a Beatle, unfortunately. But my Dad, who was a professional violinist and also a violinist who plays sessions constantly in New York, is one of the violinists on "Walls And Bridges". He's one of the players on "Imagine".

Q - Did he ever talk about Lennon?

A - He knew who he was. I was not there, but he got John Lennon to give me an autograph.

Q - You worked as a back-up singer on Foreigner's songs and Billy Joel's songs.

A - And on Yes's "Union". I'm the guy who sings "Dangerous, so dangerous, so dangerous." Not Jon. I sing the hook. I'm a huge Yes fan.

Q - When you've had a number one song and you're singing back-up, is that a come-down in your mind or is that just another gig?

A - It's just another gig, but a great gig. When I worked with Billy Joel on "I Go To Extremes" and "Storm Front", I'm sitting at the piano next to him. He's playing piano and I'm singing harmony ideas into his ear. C'mon, right? (laughs) This is great. It doesn't get any better than this. This guy's a legend. I have no problems. I had a number one record. I wish I had as many as he did. (laughs) Other than that, it's a great experience.

Q - You could've probably continued to do studio work, couldn't you?

A - Yeah, I probably could have. Things change. There aren't that many studios left. Like New York City. Most of 'em are gone. Matter of fact, I keep asking if Electric Lady is still there. I haven't gotten an answer.

Q - So, where are all the studios? L.A.? Nashville?

A - I don't think there's a lot of studios anywhere. There are some.

Q - Everyone must be doing what I said they're doing, recording in their own home studio.

A - Yeah. The last Foo Fighters album was recorded in Dave Grohl's garage. I assume, with analog machines and the old 16, 24 track. Big tapes, which is very cool. Why not? If you have that much money, you can build your own studio. But if you don't, like I said, I've done a lot of stuff on Pro Tools. When I do my next recording, there's gonna be a lot of Pro Tools involved, so I can get 'live' drums sound with the band playing basic tracks. Whether we keep the basic tracks, I don't know, but it'll end up in Pro Tools. Then subsequent over-dubs. I can't wait to do my next solo album. I've got more than enough songs and I'm sure by the time I get to it, which probably won't be until next year (2013) or the end of next year, I'll have even more.

Q - Your life is pretty much a work in progress.

A - Yes. Most people are like that, if they're artists anyway.

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