Living Colour guitarist talks new album, gear…
IT’S 1989, and the members of Living Colour are being interviewed backstage before another sold-out show. ‘Cult of Personality,’ the second single from their 1988 debut album, Vivid, has volleyed them into the spotlight, and months later the band is still adjusting to success and all it brings. Somewhere in the conversation, guitarist Vernon Reid takes a long look at rock and roll’s trajectory, from its blues roots into its second generation, while vocalist Corey Glover challenges the music industry and society at large, noting that Living Colour is “here to cut away the bullshit!”
It’s 2017, and Vernon Reid is being interview by telephone a few weeks before the release of Living Colour’s new album, Shade. Seeing it to fruition was a long, complicated process that began with a performance of Robert Johnson’s ‘Preachin’ Blues’ during a 2012 tribute concert at the Apollo Theatre, then ebbed and flowed through tour cycles, management changes, and the dynamic of four opinionated musicians. A preview was introduced last year with the band’s cover/interpretation of The Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Who Shot Ya,’ accompanied by a powerful video that takes on gun violence and racial profiling.
Almost 30 years have passed since the release of Vivid, and clearly there is weight in the old adage “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Reid, Glover, drummer Will Calhoun, and bassist Doug Wimbish are still cutting away the bullshit and tackling the hard topics. This time, they’re doing it with a rock-based album entrenched, albeit not always overtly, in its blues roots, while visiting a spectrum of genres.
GEARPHORIA: This album was a long time coming. Was there a sense of relief when it was finally done and you were looking at a definite release date?
VERNON: Yes. The process took longer than we thought it would, and getting everyone to agree on everything — on the takes, on the mastering — it took a while. Music has a life of its own. The process has a life of its own. You can be as disciplined as you want to be, and unexpected things just show themselves.