John Lodge Talks “10,000 Light Years Ago”
January 4, 2017
From The Moody Blues to the High Seas, the legendary bassist discusses his career & upcoming Cruise to the Edge
BY: CHRISTOPHER FRIEDMANN
The Moody Blues are a band synonymous with the progressive rock sound of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Their hits, “Nights in White Satin”, “Question” and “Tuesday Afternoon” soundtracked an era of modern culture where music and politics collided with spiritual exploration. However, refusing to live in the shadow of a decade that many consider gave birth to counter-culture music, they are a band that has evolved through time, ever-exploring the boundaries of rock, and they now represent an element in the culture of music that extends beyond the genre which they helped define. John Lodge, songwriting partner and bassist for the band has been with the Moody Blues since 1966, has recently released 10,000 Light Years Ago, a solo project that continues the spirit laid out by his band.
Lodge is also set to embark on Cruise to the Edge – a cruise tour to Mexico, with a line-up of iconic Prog Rock artists; YES!, Kansas, Steve Hackett, John Wetton and Mike Portnoy – where he will be performing with a band assembled to bring his solo project and classic Moody Blues songs to an intimate audience of die hard fans.
John spoke with ARTISTdirect’s Christopher Friedmann ahead of the tour, looking forward to seeing what the prog-rockers are up to these days, to reflect on the defining moments of the Moody Blues and to recapture the tranquility that only being at sea can bring.
Christopher Friedmann: We are talking to you ahead of your stint as part of Crusie to the Edge, and you just finished your first solo tour in the U.K. How is the mood in camp?
John Lodge: Fantastic! I mean, it’s been really good! I recorded a new album 10,000 Light Years Ago, which I released about a year ago, and I really wanted to get on the road to promote the record. When I released my album before, Natural Avenue, I never went on the road with it, and I thought, “If I’m going to release an album I really want to go and share the music with everyone.” So I decided to put a band together and put an English tour together to see what would happen. We had a great time, a really great time.
It was really different because from a Moody Blue point of view – when we first started it was like a rocket ship going off; one night we were playing to 500 people and then within a month it was 5,000 people, and then it was stadiums. We missed out, I missed out, I think, on going to a lot of the towns that I’ve never even been to. One of the great things for me about being a musician is about really being a bit of a gypsy, and it’s nice to be able to go and visit towns and countries and take on the whole atmosphere of where you’re visiting.
CF: You previously recorded an album – The Blue Jays – with fellow Moody Blues bandmate, Justin Haywood. So you’ve had side projects away from the Moodys, but can you speak a little on the decision to embark on your entirely solo project?
JL: It appeared to be the right time. I’ve really tried to conduct my life in a way that, when something feels right, do it. I don’t try and push the envelope, y’know? I never try to push something to go the way I want it to go, because it’s always very difficult, I think, to try and do that. But if it feels exactly right, and it did feel right, so I was very excited about my album – 10,000 Light Years Ago – and I wanted to perform it. It was almost like going back to the sixties when there was no record industry – you had to go out and perform your songs to an audience and then the audience decided there and then if they liked your music or not. It was that approach really; I wanted to go out and see…
When you write a song you’re sitting in your music room or wherever it is, and you’ve got a blank piece of paper and pencil and you write a song, then you make a demo, and then you record it and then you release the album. But there’s nothing better than getting a real reaction from an audience who are there, listening to a song in exactly the same time as you’re performing it.
CF: You were just talking about the ‘gypsy feeling’ of being a musician. There’s an element of a traveling circus with this cruise that you’re about to embark on. What do you think about the atmosphere that lends itself so well with your music?
JL: I think it’s because you get a very huge cross section of like-minded people, and it becomes like the days of a festival where you can be from any walk of life, but you went to that festival to listen to the music. You could go back to the days of the Isle of Wight (Festival) in England, there were people who could come from Eastern Europe just to go to the festival. It was a different way of life for them, compared to what we were experiencing in the west, but really when you come to think about it we’re all the same people.
We all have our own dreams and those dreams all end up pretty much the same as everyone else’s, it’s just some people have more opportunities, and a festival was like bringing together of like-minded people from every walk of life and I think on a cruise it’s the same. You get people there for one reason only… well, 90% of the reason is the music, and of course you get 10% of people who just love cruising (Laughs) so that’s always good anyway.
What captured it for me on a Moody Blues cruise once… it was about midnight and I was going back from the restaurant and I was walking along the very top of the ship, looking down onto where the swimming pool should have been, but of course that’s all covered over and there’s a stage there, and it was midnight and people were still sitting down looking at the sky, and watching the Moody Blues Montreux Jazz Festival – the moon was up, the stars were going and the music was playing and the ship was just cruising along across the Mediterranean and I thought ‘God, how tranquil is that!’ That’s really difficult to achieve that tranquility in life, wherelse can you achieve that? If you’re on the 405 you’ve got no chance! (Laughs)
CF: So, you clearly enjoy being on the water…
JL: Oh yes, I love the water – I’m a Cancerian anyway, and any chance I get I love going on boats. I also think with the cruise, it’s not like you’re just cruising around ad-hoc, wandering around everywhere, lonely as a star. The ship is actually going to Mexico, and I’ve never been to Mexico and I thought” “well, this is great!” I’m really into ancient history and archeology and I’m going to get a chance to spend the day wandering around some ruins, and hopefully be inspired and enjoy that moment just for me!