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Non-Prog Interviews

Electric Prunes

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with James Lowe of the Electric Prunes from 2014
MSJ:

So, the album is kind of a tribute to Mark Tulin, then, right? How does it feel to be doing things for the Electric Prunes without him?

WaS is a collection of things Mark and I were preparing for our last recorded offering. We did some new things for it and we went back and took some things we liked but had not released yet.  So in a way much of the CD Mark was still on board with before he left the planet. I was left with the task of hooking it all together and finishing things we had only started. It had to be more than the past ... Mark and I had decided that already. That is why there are new things on there and not a bunch of memories. They will all become that soon, anyway. 

It is different not at least running the finished mixes by Mark as I did when I finished things. He never changed anything but at least I got to see his face when things were complete. Now I have to just imagine he is smiling. In fact, I know he is. This is a cool album done as a piece not bits and bytes .... like the old days ... listen to it in order, I say. This is a tribute to the band. We dedicated Return To Stockholm LIVE to him. So he got his!

MSJ: Can you catch the readers up on the history of your personal involvement in music – and with the Electric Prunes?
In 1965 Mark Tulin, Ken Williams and I started the Electric Prunes band in Los Angeles, California.  I had done some folk club playing as a guitarist in Hawaii and Mark and Ken were still in high school. We got a drummer, Quint, and locked ourselves up in a garage in Woodland Hills for a year and rehearsed every day. We wanted a record contract so we didn't do gigs. Eventually we got a deal with Reprise Records and had a couple of chart records, “I Had Too Much Too Dream Last Night”, and “Get Me to the World on Time.”  A signature piece became the Mass in F Minor album. A cut from this was in the cult film “Easy Rider” with Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda.

All original members left the band in 1968 and the producer put together different group of people using the “Electric Prunes” name (with permission). The original band members reformed in 1999 to insinuate themselves on an unknowing public. The band has released five albums since then, Artifact, California, Feedback, WaS and a live album, Return to Stockholm. WaS represents the musical apex for the band and is a collision of all aspects of the band. A little off center, is the way we have always seen ourselves - a goofy name with some goofy songs. There is a complete history of the band on www.electricprunes.com for anyone interested.

MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
I have directed and produced commercials and TV shows on film and video so I would probably do a little of that?  I like visual things as much as music. I do find more time to just walk the beach these days ... maybe I am mellowing ...naw.
MSJ: Who would you see as your personal musical influences?
Elvis, Bo Diddly, Les Paul/Mary Ford, Gene Vincent, Link Wray, Dick Dale, Muddy Waters, Stones, Beatles…everyone I have ever heard (I will steal indiscriminately from anyone…)
MSJ: What's ahead for you?
An urn at the end, I think?  Before that, I hope to get to play in Europe one more time. It has been the most fun to play there. The audience usually listens to what you are doing.  I have produced and engineered records in the past, but it takes a lot of energy and can be a drain on your psyche unless the act is really interesting.
MSJ: Are there musicians with whom you would like to play with in the future?
My own band ... We have been together for almost eight years now  They are dying to play. You don't realize how hard it is to get do-able gigs. Usually you are ready for it but it just never comes. I would like to open for Tom Petty, I think.
MSJ: Do you think that illegal downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians?
No. I think it helps .... We used to call it “promo.” I am happy when anyone has heard anything by us. That used to be harder when there was just radio. At this point we don't make any money anyway so it just doesn't really matter. I think our audience wants the actual issues in most cases.
MSJ: In a related question, how do you feel about fans recording shows and trading them?
I love it. We never have a camera so we have gotten some good shows we would not have if they weren't there. Now, Pearl Jam might be impacted negatively by this, but no one cares much what the Electric Prunes did or said or played. Push “Record!”
MSJ: If you were to put together your ultimate band (a band you'd like to hear or catch live), who would be in it and why?
Sparks .... I worked with them in 1970 on some records but I didn't get to see enough live shows. I recently saw them at UCLA but I was thinking I would like to see them again with the original guys like the past.
MSJ: If you were in charge of assembling a music festival and wanted it to be the ultimate one from your point of view who would be playing?
I don't know what people like ... I would be a flop at that. Captain Beefheart, Cowsills, Cher .. (laughs) all "C's"
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought and/or what have you been listening to lately?
Green Men - a cut called “Yellow Cake” “A Lonely Song”- Daniel Johnston…”Loose Change” - Azure Halo. I like Latin music and World stuff and crazy recordings more than relaxing stuff.
MSJ: Have you read any good books lately?
Canyon of Dreams - Harvey Kubernik   (about Laurel Canyon in the 60s)   Riding Lessons - Bo Derek (she was my next door neighbor for 18 years  and I am in love with her ...kidding)
MSJ: What about the last concert you attended for your enjoyment?
A Jazz Fest on a beach in the Dominican Republic with Cuban bands and it rocked for two days.
MSJ: Do you have a musical “guilty pleasure?”
No, only weird sexual stuff I can't really talk about.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
When I saw Spinal Tap I thought someone had followed us around in the 60s... Every moment for a band like ours is Spinal… We got lost going to the stage once…and the cancellations… (laughs) Yeah, we were living it on 11. But punctual!
MSJ: If you could sit down to dinner with any three people, living or dead, for food and conversation, with whom would you be dining?
Jimi Hendrix, Mark Tulin, Racquel Welch
MSJ: What would be on the menu?
Racquel Welch
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you would like to get out there?
Don't give up. My mantra learned from my mom ... “Get back out there,” she would say. I think we give up too easily and often defeat ourselves with our own negative energy. You are probably better than you think you are and there is always someone to listen ... even in the darkness. Don't be afraid to dream a lot. Ideas are turned into reality, that is the natural progression ... You can be a part of it if you have a dream.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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