Vernon Reid: Upcoming Living Colour Album Inspired by the Blues

by Corbin Reiff
Posted Jun 25, 2014 at 12:20pm

Five years have passed since funk-metal icons Living Colour released a studio album. Apparently, the band has decided that’s long enough. The New York rockers are currently hard at work at a New Jersey studio, where they’re writing and recording a whole slew of new tunes.

And as lead guitarist Vernon Reid explains, the origins of the new project, due next fall, are quite interesting. It all started when the band was invited to play the centenary of the birth of Robert Johnson, in 2011.

“We played the song ‘Preachin’ Blues,’ ” Reid says, “and it got me to thinking about the blues, hard rock and metal and how they’re all connected. It started this conversation about, ‘What does it mean to have that in the mix?’ Because, we were like, ‘We’re not gonna do a blues-rock record,’ but the blues is very integral and important. So that conversation has been the underpinning of what we’ve been doing.”

While Living Colour would never be mistaken for a blues group, Reid clearly feels a level of kinship with the genre. Searching for a way to apply it to Living Colour’s new music, he borrowed from the playbook of one of rock’s biggest entities: Led Zeppelin.

“One of the things that I love about Led Zeppelin is that they reverse-engineered the blues,” Reid said. “They took it, spun it sideways and turned it on its head. That’s sort of a model in my mind—not to sound at all like them but taking things and turning them sideways.”

Part of what Reid finds exciting about the blues is the lyrics. While they are superficially about life’s hardships, he hears in them deep stories about the darkness and complexity of human existence.

“The cliché is, the old black man complaining about his life,” he says. “That’s not what it is. That’s like saying the blues is about playing the pentatonic scale. You reduce it to component parts and then you can’t see what is actually happening, and what’s happening is really a very interesting story about the human condition.

"When you’re talking about, ‘The devil took my woman,’ are you talking about a rival? Are you talking about the bottle? Are you talking about other addictions? What are you talking about?”

Reid’s own fine form of expression demands no such explanations, but it did require something of a tune-up. For the new album, he’s busting out a wide array of interesting toys, including one of his old Pro Co Rat distortion pedals that’s been modded by Keeley Electronics. Reid has also incorporated a number of pedals made by Pigtronix, including the Echolution and the Philosopher King sustainer into his signal chain. “I think [Pigtronix president] David Koltai is a brilliant pedal designer,” Reid said. “When it comes to the whole boutique thing in the modern era, he’s one of the leaders.”

While Living Colour’s new record remains a work in progress, Reid let slip a couple of interesting covers that the band already has in the can. “We just recorded ‘Preachin’ Blues’ and ‘Kick Out the Jams’ by the MC5,” he says. “The crazy thing is, we recorded ‘Preachin’ Blues’ on Robert Johnson’s 103rd birthday. So we played that song for the first time on the 100th anniversary of Robert Johnson and only got around to recording it on the 103rd birthday.”

He doesn’t what the group’s new album will ultimately look or sound like, but Reid remains hopeful that it will speak to people in ways that he may never have intended. “What I hope happens is that it’s going to tell a kind of narrative,” he says. “That story may be different to whoever listens, but a story is definitely going to be there.”

Axology

Guitar: Parker Vernon Reid Signature MaxxFly DF824VR
Amps: Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier, Mesa/Boogie Lonestar, Kemper Profiling Amplifier
Effects: Keeley-modded Pro Cro Rat Distortion, Eventide H-9 Harmonizer, Pigtronix Echolution, Pigtronix Philosopher King Sustainer, Roland VG-99, Roland FC-300, Roland GR-20, Zoom G3, Line 6 M9

Photo: Jamel Toppin


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

John Page Classic Presents “Swamp” by Eric Gales with Living Colour's Doug Wimbish and Will Calhoun — Video (7/9/2015)
Below, check out a new "John Page Classic Presents” video featuring lefty guitarist Eric Gales, who is backed by Living Colour's Doug Wimbish (bass) and Will Calhoun (drums). In the clip, which was shot at Nuthou
Living Colour's Vernon Reid Shows How to Play "Cult of Personality" and More (8/22/2014)
In this exclusive Guitar World lesson, watch Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid talk about the band's The Chair in the Doorway album and teach you how to play their classic 1988 hit "Cult of Personality." Speaking of 1988, here's a piece of Gui...
Living Colour Announce New Album, 'Shade,' and Fall Tour (7/1/2014)
Living Colour have announced a fall tour, which will celebrate their 30th anniversary. You can check out all the dates below. The band also has announced a new album, Shade. The group (vocalist Corey Glover, guitarist Vernon Reid, bassist Doug...
Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 3 — Dimebag Darrell Vs. Vernon Reid (8/23/2012)
Welcome to our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll, where 128 guitarists go head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format, all to crown your choice for the Greatest Guitarist of All Time. We filled 124 of 128 slots with the names of a host ...
Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 2 — Vernon Reid Vs. Jerry Cantrell (7/13/2012)
Welcome to our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll, where 128 guitarists go head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format, all to crown your choice for the Greatest Guitarist of All Time. We filled 124 of 128 slots with the names of a host ...
Exclusive: The Young Presidents Premiere "Unacceptable You" Featuring Living Colour's Corey Glover (6/26/2012)
Late last year, the band, made up of guitarist Jake Hertzog and bassist Mitch Kaneff, locked themselves in Kaneff's apartment for "nearly four straight months" writing an eclectic batch of tunes they intended to record with a selection of guest ...
Interview: Vernon Reid on his new band, Spectrum Road (6/5/2012)
Out today (5 June) is Spectrum Road, the self-titled debut album by a new supergroup of sorts, one which features Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, former Cream bassist-singer Jack Bruce, Medeski Martin and Wood keyboardist John Medeski and o...
Poll: The Greatest Guitarist of All Time, Round 1 — Dave Navarro Vs. Vernon Reid (5/31/2012)
Welcome to our first-ever Greatest Guitarist poll, where 128 guitarists go head to head, round by round, in a bracketed format, all to crown your choice for the Greatest Guitarist of All Time. We filled 124 of 128 slots with the names of a host ...
Spectrum Road with Vernon Reid, Jack Bruce due 5 June (5/9/2012)
A few months ago, we told you about Spectrum Road, the new jazz-rock/fusion supergroup formed by Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid and Cream bassist-singer Jack Bruce. The band, which also features drummer Cindy Blackman Santana (wife of guita...
Debut Album by Spectrum Road, Featuring Vernon Reid and Jack Bruce, Expected June 5 (5/9/2012)
As we reported in February, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid and Cream bassist Jack Bruce have started a new jazz-rock project called Spectrum Road. The band, which also features keyboardist John Medeski of Medeski Martin and Wood and drumme...
Vernon Reid and Jack Bruce Form New Jazz-Rock Band, Spectrum Road (5/9/2012)
Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid and Cream bassist have formed a new band, Spectrum Road, and their self-titled debut album will be released June 5. The band also features keyboardist John Medeski of Medeski Martin and Wood (and Lee Ranaldo's...
From the Archive: Living Colour Guitarist Vernon Reid Talks 'Vivid' in 1988 Interview (5/3/2012)
Vivid is an excellent representation of Vernon Reid's distinct, versatile style. He unleashes "power rhythm" and a blues·drenched solo on "Middle Man," the band's first single, while the "Funny Vibe" showcases his clean rhythm playing and scream...
Living Colour Reunite (3/27/2001)
New album may follow Living Colour tour