Sunday, 17 February 2013

Peter and the Wolf - Part Two

The Peter Lazini Interview - Part Two

After a delightful light Greek lunch with Pete and his daughter, we resume work. I ask about his spiritual side.

‘I was going to be a priest from seven years old. I had a real moment and I knew. But like I said, music intervened. Suddenly I, a baby wannabe priest, was having feelings about The Devil’s Music. I was so confused about everything. I wasn’t very good at being a teenager.’
‘Everyone around me was going to parties and getting drunk, kissing girls. I was just growing and growing and praying and trying to referee the fight in my head between God and Music.’
There is genuine pain in Pete’s face, more feeling than he has ever expressed. I am honoured but terribly sad for him. The idea that Big Pete Lazini was an awkward unhappy teen sits badly with me.
‘We made a real odd trio. Sasquatch Lazini, tiny but flamboyant Eli and quarterback Luke. People didn’t know what to make of us at school but nobody dared take us on. I was Chicago to those soft LA kids…’ He chuckles. ‘Man, the number of fights I’ve won without having to fight them at all… just because I look like I do.’
‘You do have a reputation for being tough.’
‘I’ve never started a fight in my life. I’m a priest at heart, I told you… but I’ll defend myself and my family.’
‘And you’re from Chicago…’
‘Actually we lived in Jersey much longer than that but the press likes making a big deal out of Chicago. I don’t know why. Both were tough as hell. Los Angeles was a new start for us. I remember being surprised at getting through my first week at school without having a knife pulled on me. And that’s where I had my epiphany.’
He refers to it with ease but will not give more detail.
‘How did you reconcile secular music with your faith? If, indeed, you did?’
‘Father Aloysius, our parish priest, suggested I use my guitar lessons to play the music of heaven. So did. But the Devil’s Music kept getting better and better. Even my mom couldn’t hate the Beatles. I began to see that it being secular didn’t mean it was devilry. LA is quite a tough place to be zealous anyway… too beautifully diverse even then. I was still going to be a priest, but a rockin’ one.’
‘Then girls.’
Pete’s head shake is precise. ‘No. Jo-Jo. I had been turned on by girls - or the idea of them - but never wanted to date any of them. The day I met Jo-Jo on Venice Beach, I went home and wept, then spent the whole next day praying in church. Father Al came through again. He told me I owed it to myself to give it a chance because hey, it might be God’s Plan after all. And I knew, totally knew within a week that my life was to be one of music and Johanna. I put away my idea of dog collars and celibacy and refocused my devotion.’
‘I feel God in every note I play. Every show, every take in the studio. God is in the detail. When I send all that power through my amplifiers, through the floors and walls and pillars of a building, I’m connecting with the audience and the Almighty.’
‘You’re the conduit between the audience and God?’
‘In a way. There’s a religious ecstasy in great music and I feel it every time. Sam and I are locked in, drums and bass, rhythms of the ages… we’re what pulls you to your feet, what gets you right in the guts. Visceral, ageless. Right back since the beginning of human existence there has been rhythm. It is human existence. Twain and Byrne are the heart and soul of Shadowlands but Mascha and I are the guts and the glory.’
‘You keep them grounded.’
‘Any good rhythm section does that. That’s why the relationship between drums and bass is so important. Sam and I had to have our special level of communication, our own language.’
‘Was it tough when he was on drugs?’
‘Sometimes I had to work to keep him going, but no matter what, he always came through.’
‘Not always.’
Pete almost snarls at me: ‘There were remarkably few occasions he missed a show or worse, played badly, considering he was a serious drug user for years. And before you as, yes I did everything I could to help him short of locking him in a cell. He was and remains his own person with the God-given freedom to screw up however he chooses. I was there to help him but only if he asked.’
I pause before asking my next question. ‘Where do you call home?’
‘Topanga Canyon. Has been since 1965. I’m not a nomad like Twain or a citizen of Nowhere like Byrne. I don’t like touring but I did it because that’s how music works. It is what it is. My love for the music was stronger than anything loathing for that.’
‘You couldn’t get me to do a tour again. Nothing in this world to persuade me. I’m nearly sixty years old and I have a bad shoulder, two bad knees, a dodgy hip and I’ve circled the globe too many times.’
‘How do the others feel about that?’
‘I don’t care how they feel about it… but they do understand. Sam has his ranch, you’ve been there?’
‘Yes. Homely. Safe.’
‘Right. He needs his ranch, I need to sit still. Even Liam owns a house now. It looks like a hotel or Architectural Digest spread, but he has one.’
‘If you had one word to describe Liam Byrne, what would it be?’
‘Focused. And how. I never knew a guy so single-minded.’
‘And if you had two words?’
‘Focused. Repressed.’ He cracks a grin. ‘Byrne and I are both Catholic. I get it, but I went a different way.’
‘How do you look upon your legacy now?’
‘I have one? I’m told I’ve been a huge influence on a lot of younger bass players but I don’t know man, I just stand and do my job.’
‘Master of the Understatement there. You’ve been a massive influence on musicians since.’
‘How? I’m not being falsely modest, I don’t see it.’
‘Your attitude on-stage, your mix of the simple and very complex, your fingering style.’
‘That’s just ‘cause I don’t like picks. Entwistle didn’t use a pick always either, but he had a faster style. I can play fast and I can play complicated but the real magic is in the space between the notes.’
‘Sam said something similar about your playing. That he felt sometimes like his job was filling in the gaps you left.’
‘Maybe so.’
‘Songwriting wasn’t something you enjoyed particularly-’
‘Says who? I like to compose. Unfortunately, so does Byrne. Getting my work on a Shadowlands record was a battle every damned time.’
‘Did you ever want to make a solo record to get your work out there?’
‘I thought about it for about two seconds. Any solo record I’d make would need Sam on it, and JD and Liam and next thing you know, it’s a Shadowlands project. I don’t want all the limelight, man. But I do want to be a meaningful part of the process.’
‘Do you think Shadowlands will record together again?’
‘I can’t see into the future. Right now we’re not working, but we always find our way back to the Villa eventually. But no touring. No way, man.’

To be continued...

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