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Progressive Rock Interviews

Lands End

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Mark Lavallee from 1999
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

What do you see as your musical influences, and how do they differ from those of the band as a whole?
We all have completely different musical tastes. When I started playing, First I started off playing stuff that I could actually play. I started learning by putting on records, and learning to play that stuff. When I started playing in my first band, it was trying to do stuff like The Cure, Bauhaus, more dark gothic stuff. A lot more artsy gothic stuff like that. Like Fields of The Nephilim. That`s the stuff I really, really loved, that and prog, but I couldn`t play prog. When it comes to prog, I love Phil Collins, he`s my hero. I tried and tried and tried, for a long time, to play like Collins and Bruford. I got really into King Crimson. Fred, he`s really the super prog head. He`s into everything, all the new bands. He worships Yes. One birthday, his brother is a DJ in England, for the BBC, he got Rick Wakeman to come see him for his birthday. Fred said he couldn`t say a word, he was so in awe. He loves Jean Michael Jarre, Mike Oldfield. He likes a lot of the weird stuff like Gary Numan. He got me into that. Francisco, he`s into a lot of the more metal stuff, like Dream Theater. He loves stuff with lots of riffs, like Judas Priest, Black Sabbath. Me and Francisco both love Kiss. Everytime Lands End would rehearse, we`d sit there, and between every song, we`d jam on Kiss, all the time. We do it live sometimes, we go in to "Hotter Than Hell", and throw everyone off. Jeff is into all kinds of weird `80`s pop bands I`ve never heard of. Like he worships Bjork. David Silvian is his hero. Anything he actually records himself has tons of reverb cause he loves David Silvian. That`s pretty much our influences, we pretty much try to blend all that. When I first started playing with Fred, we were really getting into Pink Floyd. When I started the band, I started with a guy named Sean Villaros. He actually cowrote a couple of songs on the first two albums. We were doing a lot of Cure covers, and a lot of covers of this local LA band called "Red Temple Spirits". They were just an incredible band that never went anywhere. I started getting Sean into Pink Floyd, cause the band Red Temple Spirits covered a couple songs. I figured I could add that to our stuff, so we could jam a lot. I always liked jamming, so I started adding Pink Floyd. Then we got Fred in, as a bass player. We actually did a twenty minute version of "Careful With That Axe, Eugene" at this Dead festival in LA, which was pretty weird. That was actually with a different guy on vocals, too, a guy named "Otis Beard". He had the typical grunge voice. Then we got more into Pink Floyd, and Fred started bringing in more and more prog stuff. We were trying to learn "Starless", the King Crimson song, and that`s how we ended up writing the first actual Lands End song, which was "The Last Word", cause we were trying to play "Starless", but we couldn`t play it, and we came across this, and it`s been in every show we ever played ever since. "For Reasons Unknown" came out when Sean was trying to get the guitar part to "Run Like Hell" down. That`s how we worked in the early days, we`d try to learn stuff, and we`d come up with our own stuff while trying to learn songs. Fred is really opposed to playing covers.
MSJ: What can you tell me about Drainage?
It`s mostly live. There are some studio tracks, actually. The song "Drainage" is really strange, the way that was put together. Fred pretty much put that whole thing together in his apartment. When we were recording Natural Selection, after everything was done, we had the mics still set up around everything. He had this thing programmed in his keyboard. He just hit play, and said "play along". I sat there and listened to it for about ten seconds, then just counted myself in, which is the drum count in the song. I just started playing along. Then, about ten minutes later, he just waved to me, "OK, you can stop now". That was that, I didn`t hear anything of it for about a year. He made that into the rhythm of the song, using his programmed keys. He took the guitar solo from a song that we recorded for the second Cyclops sampler called "Eyes of Venus", worst thing we ever did. He took the guitar solo from that. The vocals, we were rehearsing for this show in Mexico, the last show we`ve played. It was raining out, and Jeff started to sing about the rain. Fred took that, and made that the vocal track. He put it all together, he had to speed some stuff up. The drums fit perfect. He overdubbed some bass, a couple keyboard parts, and that`s the title track of the album. Actually, a lot of Lands End stuff is like that. We reading Zappa`s biography how he talked about taking bits from songs, and sticking them in other songs, we tried doing that. A lot of the solos are from other songs. The live stuff has no overdubs, though. The other intro, that`s from the intro to Natural Selection that had to be cut. We put that album together, it was exactly 80 minutes. We figured you need to fit 80 minutes on a CD (I`ve actually got a CD that`s 81 minutes), but Cyclops won`t let us have anything longer than 74. He never wanted us to do a double CD, because, they`d lose money on it, so we had to chop out 6 minutes. Natural Selection, we worked on it for two years, and we thought it was perfect. So, we thought, how do we get rid of 6 minutes? So we chopped out some of the intro, I don`t know where the rest of it came from. Fred did it, cause I didn`t want to have anything to do with cutting it, so he pretty much threw little bits and pieces of ambient stuff out.
MSJ: What`s on the horizon for the band?
In July, we`re going to start writing. We`ve got a bunch of bits and pieces floating around, going way back to `92 to some videos, little bits and pieces of songs we were starting. We`re going to try to throw things together. We want to do an album quickly, but make it quality, of course. After that, we`re going to try to work on something really big. Maybe we`ll fight for a double album. We want to make the album after the next one a big concept album. We`re not hoping to make The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, but it should be fun.
MSJ: Do you have any non-Lands End projects in the works?
I was working on something, but it never really gelled. I was working with some orchestral musicians. They couldn`t make it more into a rock thing, and I couldn`t find a way to fit in, so that really didn`t work. Fred`s been working on a solo album for a while. He`s actually had like 3 hours of stuff recorded and done. He`s really picky. It`s sort of like soundtrack stuff. Jeff just bought a computer and a whole computer recording thing. He`s trying to get a song on the tribute album for The Church. He`s trying to write a solo album.
MSJ: What musicians would you like to work with?
If there were any musician I could work with, it would be Peter Hammill, he`s my hero. I`d kill to work with him. A guy named Valor, he`s got a band called "Christian Death". They`ve been around since `81, love that band. I`d love to work with him. I don`t think he`s done much that`s been really good for a while, not much in the `90`s. He`s got some great ideas, it`s just the people he`s been playing with haven`t worked. I think I could actually do some great stuff with him. I`d love to work with Peter Murphy from Bauhaus, him and Daniel Ash. Fields of The Nephilim would be great. I think I`d fit in perfect with them. All the guys in Lands End really like Fields of The Nephilim. They`re sort of like a dark Lands End. I think I could actually work with them, but I like working with Lands End.
MSJ: What`s been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Oh god, we`ve had a lot of them. We played this show at The Roxy. It was packed, and it was 90 percent women. Francisco`s hormones were way over-active. The whole night, every song we played, he tried to solo everywhere, and he ruined the entire gig. Not one song came off remotely well. Jeff would start singing, and he`d run up to the front of the stage and start soloing. That was right after PCH was recorded. That was actually in the middle of PCH. We actually ran out of money in middle of making the album, and about 9 months later we went in and recorded Conspicuously Empty. After that, I was like "you`re out of the band". We didn`t play with him for about 3 months. Then it was. "Ok, you`re back". When we played prog-fest, we had equipment problems the whole show. That was pretty embarassing, cause it was like the big prog audience. It was packed, and the equipment kept breaking down the whole time. At one show we played, before Francisco and Jeff, right before I went into a drum solo (we were doing Sunshine of Your Love), my drum stool broke. I fell to the floor, but I kept playing,
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought?
I just ordered a Van Der Graaf Generator bootleg called "Worldly Men and Strangers, A Day in The Life of Van Der Graaf Generator".
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended?
Max Creek, they`ve been around since `72. They started off as a Dead cover band, now they do all originals. A lot of covers, but no Dead covers. They`re from Connecticut. They`re really good. Actually, the last real concert I went to was Kiss. We drove down to New York to see them, and saw them here in Maine. We saw Rat Dog recently, Bob Weir`s band.
 
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