Robbie Locke Interview

ROBBIE LOCKE INTERVIEW:
December 17, 2007

Having been the singer for Laidlaw since 2005, Robbie Locke has rubbed elbows with some of the biggest names in music. Top that with being one of the most powerful vocalists, with songwriting skills to match, and you would think he would be inaccessible. However, once you meet Robbie you will not find a more down-to-earth person anywhere. Justin Crafton caught up with Robbie for the scoop on the band’s stellar 2006 release, The Foam Box Sessions, and all the latest on Laidlaw (www.laid-law.com).

Sleaze Roxx: Can you give readers a little background on yourself; age, where you’re from, etc.

Robbie LockeRobbie Locke: I was born August 31st in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I moved to Texas when I was 4 and lived there until 10 when my parents divorced, I then moved back to Arkansas and lived with my Dad.

Sleaze Roxx: When did you get into music and who were your earliest musical influences?

Robbie Locke: I was into music very early. My Dad was always playing albums…Styx, Elton John, Boston, Journey, Three Dog Night, Grand Funk Railroad, etc. So those were my earliest influences, but above all Styx was the first band that I really fell in love with.

Sleaze Roxx: When did you decide that music was what you wanted to do with your life?

Robbie Locke: I probably decided around 14 that music was what I was meant to do…the Seattle bands were huge and I dove deep into their records and really started to sing. I first started to sing when I was 9 but it wasn’t until I was like 14 or 15 that I realized that I sang a lot better and higher than any of my friends or any local band’s singers. The only people I heard that sang like that were Chris Cornell and singers like Robert Plant, Tommy Shaw and Brad Delp…so I knew something was there.

Sleaze Roxx: Who was your first concert? What concert that you have seen up till now has made the biggest impact on you?

Robbie Locke: My first concert was Pink Floyd in 1994 in Nashville. I was living in Tennessee at the time and the Floyd came through on the ‘Division Bell’ tour and my best friend’s Dad bought us tix. I pretended I was spending the night cause I knew my Mom wouldn’t let me go.

The show that really blew me away was the first time I saw Pearl Jam (1995 with Kings X and Mudhoney opening the show)…it just killed me. Eddie Vedder just freaked me completely out, I knew then that this is what I want to do. They were amazing…the whole show was a freak out!

Sleaze Roxx: As a teenager, what bands were of influence to you?

Robbie Locke: All the Seattle bands (Nirvana, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, Alice In Chains, Screaming Trees)…and I was really into The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Stone Temple Pilots too. I listened to classic rock as I still do today (Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Black Sabbath).

Sleaze Roxx: Were you in bands as a teenager and did any of them ever record anything?

Robbie Locke: I had two bands. Very Ape (a Nirvana rip off…covers of Bush, Nirvana, Foo Fighters, Silverchair) and then after high school I was in a band called Bad Radio. We did a few recordings on shitty computer programs…I actually have a track on my iPod. Where the other tracks we did are I’ll never know…maybe if I become famous they will end up on bootlegs and I’ll have them again, ha ha!

Sleaze Roxx: You’re very upfront with the fact you’re a liberal. What prompted you to become involved in politics and how old were you when you started?

Laidlaw with Jeff DiamantRobbie Locke: Well, when alternative music broke in the late 80’s, they carried a very political flag with them. So the more I got into the music the more I learned of their politics. I agreed with all the liberal rhetoric that bands like Pearl Jam and U2 were saying and it just lit a fire inside me, and this was at 13 or 14. That’s something that will always be a HUGE part of me and my music. So if people get offended, I’m sorry, but this is who I am and it isn’t going to change. I used to tell this really lame joke to members of my old band…when they asked if I would change the way I do things and quit speaking out at shows because they didn’t want to be a seen as political band. I would politely say, “How long does it take me to change a light bulb? Change? I’ll never change shit for nobody.” Eventually they shut up. By 17 I was an all out rock n’ roll pundit…

Laidlaw is a different story. I came into the band and it was already formed. So I make sure not to put the other guys in the middle of my views…it makes easier bedfellows!

Sleaze Roxx: Do you think that politics belongs in mainstream music or vice versa or should it remain an ‘underground’ thing?

Robbie Locke: That depends on the band. If that is the route they choose, then go for it…speak your mind and fight for your ideas. But expect a storm now and then…I don’t mind the rain. I don’t think it’s been totally underground since 1964…once Bob Dylan and Joan Baez started speaking out through their words and songs…it has stayed mainstream. The 60’s started it and its never went away. The 70’s had ‘The Concert for Bangladesh’, the 80’s had ‘No Nukes’ and ‘Live Aid’, the 90’s had ‘Tibetan Freedom Concert’ and just recently we had ‘Live 8’ and ‘Live Earth’…it’s very much mainstream and most likely it will stay that way.

Sleaze Roxx: You presently reside in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Were you involved in the ‘scene’ there? If so, how?

Robbie Locke: To a degree I am. I have many friends in the scene, and I have participated in a few gigs here and there but I’m more of a watcher now. I do get involved with a few things, I did a big Pink Floyd show twice last year with a who’s who of local musicians. We had a really big turn out and it was a lot of fun. Just this week I went and recorded with a metal band here…did some vocal work. It turned out pretty cool.

Sleaze Roxx: Will you list your five (5) biggest musical influences and how they’ve influenced you

Robbie Locke with Neil ZlozowerRobbie Locke: 1. Pearl Jam: They are to me what The Beatles were to the 60’s…they are everything. Politics, music, way to package an album, the way to treat fans…they are a big piece of my puzzle.

2. Led Zeppelin: The power, the mystery, it’s all a very magical thing. Everything about them is an influence. If you’re into rock music and you aren’t into Zeppelin, you should find another genre to dabble in…the influence is staggering!

3. Chris Cornell: My God, that voice…it’s just perfect. I don’t really have to explain this one, you can hear it.

4. Queen: Complete excess and bombast…pure fun, amazing production, and those harmonies! Freddie Mercury is rock’s greatest front man…if you’re a lead singer he is the level you want to achieve. Also they took a lot of chances, which I love…and they exposed me to opera and classical music. I Love Queen.

5. Styx: Styx gave me my love of music. For most of my early youth between 7-10 years old, that was almost the only thing I listened too…it’s the soundtrack of me growing up. I truly believe Tommy Shaw and Dennis DeYoung taught me how to sing.

I am going to have to add a sixth all-time favorite just to shake things up a bit! 6. Stone Temple Pilots: Great, great band. The songwriting was brilliant and Scott Weiland influenced everyone. Rock’s second greatest front man!

Sleaze Roxx: How did you become aware of the vocalist position in Laidlaw?

Robbie Locke: A friend of mine, Mikey Lewis, was working at a studio here in Fayetteville and he was asked to call me because a local promoter named Donnie Frizzel, who knew Craig, had received a call from him. Craig was looking for a whole new band and he needed a singer, and he asked him if he knew anybody. Donnie said he would call around and the first person he called was a guy named Dave McKnight, who was the head producer at the studio Mikey was engineering at. I just happened to be at the studio a couple days before recording some demos, so I was fresh on his mind. Craig and me were put in touch and it just kind of grew from there.

Sleaze Roxx: Were you aware or a fan of Laidlaw prior to the “audition”?

Robbie Locke: I had seen them on the Lynyrd Skynyrd/ZZ Top tour back in 2000/2001. I thought they were ok, but I was into different stuff at the time. Stuff like Radiohead and Tool…so hearing Laidlaw for the first time was impressive but I wouldn’t say I was a fan. I didn’t buy their record or anything…but when the name came up through Donnie I recognized it.

Sleaze Roxx: What feelings or emotions were you experiencing going into the writing and recording phase of The Foam Box Sessions?

Robbie LockeRobbie Locke: I was really excited to record an album. We did it at ZZ Top’s private studio in Houston and ZZ’s main producer, Joe Hardy, produced it. I was nervous, I guess that’s why I’m not as happy now with the vocals, I don’t feel as though I captured the full impact of what my voice can achieve. I guess for my first time I did pretty damn well. The next one will be much easier for me, I have a hell of a lot more confidence now. It turned out very well, Hardy is a great guy and I’m really looking forward to working with him again.

Sleaze Roxx: Did you bring any songs into the band or were your contributions made once you got to the writing and recording sessions?

Robbie Locke: I brought in “War Machine”. Then I wrote a few with Craig and Brian.

Sleaze Roxx: What tunes did you have a hand in writing?

Robbie Locke: I co-wrote the lyrics for “Let Your Love Light Shine” with Craig. He was wanting something like Paul Rodgers, so I did my best imitation, ha ha ha, lyrically and vocally. Our first collaboration turned out very well. I wrote the lyrics for “Sunshine Woman”, “Revolution Is Coming”, and “Down So Long”.

Sleaze Roxx: “War Machine” was described by Craig as “Robbie’s baby” in the interview I did with him. How did that song come about and what is the inspiration behind it?

Robbie Locke: Before I ever made a trip to Houston, Craig asked if I had any of my own songs. So I sent him two songs, “War Machine” and another song called “Across The Ocean”. “War Machine” is my statement on the Iraq war. I had a pretty close friend that I had known since elementary school who was killed in action. I had been meaning to do something for him, so “War Machine” was it. His family are pretty right-wing so I never say who exactly I’m talking about…I’d rather they not know. It’s from me to him.

Sleaze Roxx: What was it like to work with legendary producer/engineer Joe Hardy?

Robbie Locke: He was a blast, very easy to work with…he is a comedian. I wish we would have kept the tape rolling so we could have captured all the things we laughed about. But I guess that’s why that moment in time will remain as personal as it does. I just have very good memories of the way he would help me grow.

Sleaze Roxx: Any great Joe Hardy stories that you can share?

Robbie Locke: He dubbed me ‘The Kid’ on the first day, and he still calls me that…funny. He sent me a package once, instead of Robbie Locke on the envelope he just put ‘The Kid’ ha ha…that’s classic Hardy!

Sleaze Roxx: How was it recording your first ever album at ZZ Top’s Foam Box Recorders? Was it intimidating at all?

Robbie Locke: It was all very exciting. I was nervous but I wouldn’t say I was intimidated…I was just ready to do it.

Sleaze Roxx: The CD was released on June 16, 2006 and was celebrated with a CD release party/gig at Bungalo 8 in Houston, Texas. Were you at all nervous before the gig?

LaidlawRobbie Locke: I don’t remember being nervous at all. It was the first time we had played in front of people and I was just hoping no one went into a chorus to soon or something like that…that would have sucked!

Sleaze Roxx: Any highlights from that show you’d care to share?

Robbie Locke: It’s actually kind of a blur. I remember meeting you there, but I think the highlight was that we played a great show and had a really good turnout.

Sleaze Roxx: Since then, the band has went on to tour with ZZ Top in April 2007. How did that go and any shows stick out in your mind?

Robbie Locke: That tour went great. Our first show started with a few bumps. Craig’s rig worked fine at soundcheck but when it was time for him to start nothing was happening. But it was fixed really fast and the show went on…and we did a pretty good job. I kept thinking during that really long 10 seconds or whatever it was…for some reason Ashley Simpson’s SNL scandal popped into my head so like her I danced a quick jig much to Greg’s delight. I doubt anyone noticed though.

We played our second show in the rain…so I’ll always remember that.

Sleaze Roxx: After the tour with ZZ Top, bassist Eric Jarvis left the band to concentrate on his family, he was replaced by former Molly Hatchet and Stephen Pearcy bassist Jerry Scott. What has it been like to work with Jerry?

Robbie Locke: Jerry has been great to work with, super friendly and laid back. We hang quite often on the road…I’m glad he is in Laidlaw…he is a good friend.

Sleaze Roxx: In July, you went out with Lynyrd Skynyrd as well. Any memories or highlights from those gigs that you’d like to share? As a HUGE fan of Rickey Medlocke, I have to ask what was he like not only as a performer but did you have a chance to hang with him, any good stories shared by the Rattlesnake Rock & Roller?

Robbie Locke: Playing the Shoreline and Greek Theatre are the definite highlights of that tour, without a doubt!!!

Medlocke is a full on rock star. He has some really amazing clothes, cool cool stuff. He never stops running around on stage…kind of like Angus from AC/DC. He is in his 50’s and is in far better shape than anyone else I’ve seen. He gives it his all for sure. Personally he is a really down to earth guy, always has a good word of advice for you, always encouraging.

I won’t go into any stories, those are my memories, but I do know he is crazy about the Andy Griffith Show…he is like a walking Andy Griffith encyclopedia!

Sleaze Roxx: Any tours forthcoming or has the touring cycle for The Foam Box Sessions ended? What tunes were your favorite to perform live and are there any Laidlaw tunes from TFBS or from their past catalog that you’d like to see in the setlist?

Robbie LockeRobbie Locke: The touring isn’t over, we’re just on down time, there is something coming very soon.

“Open Up Your Mind” and “Sunshine Woman” have been the songs that really pump me up live! “War Machine” too…when the riff drops and the whole band comes in it’s a monster!

Sleaze Roxx: After the Lynyrd Skynyrd tour the band went into the studio to cut tracks for the follow-up to TFBS, when can fans expect the new album?

Robbie Locke: Well we didn’t go into the studio, we worked on some new ideas with Mikey Lewis. But one song did evolve from it, a track called “Run For Your Life”…darker and heavier than anything we have done.

Sleaze Roxx: Can you give fans a hint of what to expect with the new tunes?

Robbie Locke: Expect it to be a lot heavier than previous albums…light and shade, dynamics…

Sleaze Roxx: Who would your ideal tourmates be?

Robbie Locke: Hmmmm, that’s a tough one cause there are a lot of bands I would like to tour with. I think a Velvet Revolver/Laidlaw package would be pretty rockin’. I’d love to tour with Pearl Jam also.

Sleaze Roxx: It is well known that you’re a huge Led Zeppelin fan, what are your thoughts on their reunion gig and subsequent catalog re-issues and digital catalog releases?

Robbie Locke: Well I think it’s fantastic, I’m sure it is going to be amazing. I’m hoping for a tour or at least a few shows here in the States, and actually sell tickets instead of the lottery. That has had to piss off at least 2 million people.

I’m glad they are going to re-issue the live album. That is something all Zeppelin fans have waited for…extra tracks…very exciting. I’ve had the boots from the MSG ’73 shows for a few years, now with it remastered I’m sure it’s going to be quite an experience.

As far as them going digital, I feel the time is right. It’s 2007, times are different. The album is a dying art, if not dead already. So being able to buy a single track instead of a whole album is a lot more appealing to 14 year old kid. 99 cents or 15 bucks???? Hmmmm!

Sleaze Roxx: Anything else you’d care to share with Laidlaw fans?

Robbie Locke: Yeah, I’d like to thank everyone who has bought our record or came to one of our shows. Without you there would be nothing…and I’m looking forward to giving you more!!

Thanks to Robbie Locke and Justin “Crash” Crafton