Saturday, 2 February 2013

Peter & The Wolf

Peter and the Wolf: The Peter Lazini Interview With Clare Worley. Part One

I cannot describe to you how massive Peter Lazini is. I mean, I can give you the basics but I cannot express how he fills the space. That can only be experienced.

I know a guy who is six-six. He’s a rugby player, a hulking giant with hands like dustbin lids. He is not massive like 6'4 Peter Lazini. I don’t even dare call him Pete: I don’t feel I’ve earned it. He is Mr Lazini or Sir.
I don’t mean to say he’s intimidating or unfriendly - he is neither. He exudes power from the tips of the toes of his massive feet and his long, strong legs, through his broad chest and wide shoulders to the ends of his long, suspiciously dark hair. Surely no man of sixty years naturally has hair that dark: not in Greece, Italy, Samoa, Hawaii, Asia Minor or any of the places rumoured to be in his bloodline.
Lazini legends and fiction are more common than Lazini fact, probably because he doesn’t talk about himself. Or about much. I have only found six interviews with him in the entirety of his career. That’s not a typo: six. He speaks exclusively on music in five and the sixth is a 1983 pop magazine quiz asking his favourite ice cream flavours. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that sixth one was written by a ghost at the record label’s PR department.
Incidentally, his fave ice cream was chocolate, he admitted to not knowing the price of milk and his favourite Duran Duran song was "their cover of Cage's 4'33".
I have come all the way to Santorini in Greece to meet him. The sky is a shade of blue that actually deserves the word “azure”. I was distracted by the wonders of the island on the walk to his house so I am a little late when he answers the door to me.
Time has been kind to him. “They” used to describe fellows like Pete as “swarthy” back in the day: his dark, olive colouring defies simple categorisation. He is, I think very handsome, but not in an obvious way. There’s not a word for the golden-brown life found in his dark eyes, and words escape the warmth, humour and confidence there.
Serenity is the one word I would use for him. He is entirely at one with himself, and I would call it “priestly” or “spiritual” and assume him to be a guru if I didn’t know better. As a kind of ice-breaker, I tell him this.
‘I was going to be a priest. Or a monk.’
‘Rock and roll got in the way?’
‘And girls. Had I not seen Jo-Jo on Venice Beach that day…’
Peter has been married since 1965 - forty years! - and have been together since, though touring kept them geographically separate for much of the time.
‘It worked for us.’
‘Were you faithful during that time?’
‘Faithful means different things to different people.’
Sounds like a “no” to me, but I am not disappointed in him. He has never pretended to be anything for anyone, not a moral force or role model, and though he does not appear to be angry at me asking, he clearly does not feel it’s anything like my business.
 Some of our heroes ask to be taken to our hearts. Some march right in. Some demand love. Pete Lazini requires respect and he certainly commands mine.


Most people in rock music are at least a bit mad. It comes from years of being pandered to, of travelling and rarely settling, of being worshipped, of boredom. Pete's madness is subtle, quiet, like the man himself.
'I think probably the weirdest thing is my habit of buying team jerseys.'
'Every town we play, I buy a jersey for the local team - baseball, football, soccer, whatever. I have a pretty large collection now.'
I observe he is in fact wearing an Everton shirt right now.
'Why did you start that?'
He shrugs. 'Seemed like a good idea at the time.'
Time to move onto music: 'How many basses do you own?'
'Only four?' I think of JD Twain and his roomful of instruments.
'I can only play one at a time, right? The Fender Jazz is still my favourite. I know a lot of people like the Precision better but the brighter Jazz sound is more my thing. I've still got the Gibson Thunderbird I bought in 1964 and it's never let me down. Then I've got a six-string made for me by a guy at Ibanez and a real old upright double bass. I don't need anything more.' His smirk curls across his mouth. 'JD can only play one guitar at a time, too.'
'Doesn't stop him owning hundreds.'
'They're his sports jerseys. All rock musicians have got some kind of madness in them. If they didn't, they'd work in an office.'
Looking around Pete's pretty little Santorini house, with its crisp white walls and flowers in the windows, I can't help thinking that madness or no, they have the better deal.
'There's a cost to this life.' He seems to have guessed what I was thinking. 'I've missed out on as much as I've gained. My family would have different answers to many of your questions. To a real extent, I've been in suspended animation since 1972 or something. Success... it's like being preserved in aspic. The world decides you're one thing and you either stay like it or incur its wrath. Fame doesn't like personal development. Look at me now compared to 1972, man. My hair is still the same, my clothes are pretty much the same. Is that right? Most guys grow up, they change, they grow.'
'The music, though-'
'We had to fight everyone - the record label, the fans, the press, everyone - for the right to work on our sound. Every new idea was resisted. Believe it or not, the fans hated Rosalie at first. Then they hated her leaving. Change is the third rail of popular music.'
'You step on it, you die.'
'Yeah. Unless you hold on real tight. Which we did.'
We break for coffee and he offers me some baklava made by the woman next door. As we munch on honey and nuts, I ask about the band dynamic.
'We fought a lot in the 80s. A lot. We wanted different things, had different problems. I guess the worst was Sam and JD. Women will always be the cause of problems between men. And by that I don't blame the women themselves, but the men involved. They choose to get stupid, possessive and violent.'
'So can you confirm the story about Sam and the Bowie knife-'
'No idea what you're talking about.' Pete scowls. 'Except that time it was a woman being heinous.'
Another baklava down, I ask about music.
'The first time I remember caring about a song, I was thirteen. I was more into sports then, being on all the teams for everything. My friends Eli and Luke and I went camping in Big Sur that spring. On the second night, sat around the campfire listening to the radio, we made ourselves blood brothers and "Rave On" by Buddy Holly was playing. Something about it got into my heart or soul or something. When I returned home I got into music. Tried the guitar first but bass was a better fit.'
'Blood brothers is something I don't quite understand.'
'For us it was about swearing a solemn oath to remain best friends for all time. And we did. Even when Luke was in Vietnam and Eli in New York. Luke came to work with us after. It lasted decades-' He stops abruptly.
I don't want to assume I know the reason for his sudden silence, but the facts speak loudly: Pete is the sole survivor of that trio. Luke died in 1985, Eli almost exactly ten years later. Both were HIV Positive.
'Luke died on my wedding anniversary, you know.' Pete speaks again. 'Jo-Jo and I had driven to San Diego for the night... it was a tough time anyway... and the owner of the restaurant came over with a phone message. I've never passed out in public before or since.'
I do not know what to say. He smiles grimly.
'Do you know how much damage someone my size causes when falling to the floor?'
'A fair amount, I imagine.'
'Yup. I broke a table, two chairs and put a foot through a glass door. And you're not going to put this in the book, are you?'
I want to say "of course I am" but I don't dare. It's Pete Lazini, after all.


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