by Gregory A. DeTogne
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Beyond the storied Body Glove wet suits and hair statements touted onstage by Living Colour in the late '80s, the band received both critical and popular accolades for its ability to blend hip-hop, metal, and R&B into a funked-up musical stew unique to its own sonic kitchen. The hard-slammin' quartet was perhaps both ahead of and after its time, a concept made all the more nebulous by the group's sudden and unexplained disappearance in 1995. "We didn't go out with a bang or even a whimper," says front man Corey Glover today. "We just went away."
Regrouping last year with guitarist Vernon Reid, drummer Will Calhoun, and bassist Doug Wimbish, Living Colour began what Glover describes as a "living experiment" on the road. Once the tour wrapped, the group was so satisfied with the results that they decided to return to the studio. What will come of these renewed efforts? Glover contemplates just that and more in this exclusive OTWS interview.
On Tour with Shure: Did the process of getting Living Colour back together require any kicking, screaming, or gnashing of teeth?
Corey Glover: No, no, no. We all came to an agreement that this had to happen sooner rather than later. Living Colour was turning into a mere blip on the public's radar screen, and we all had higher aspirations for the group than that. At the same time, our own individual careers as solo artists were still being eclipsed by our collective work as Living Colour. So here was this thing, Living Colour, which wasn't getting the due we felt it deserved. Yet, we still couldn't do anything on our own until we slayed the dragon which is Living Colour. We just vanished seven years ago without giving our audience a chance to say goodbye. People kept asking when we were coming back, saying it was necessary. It finally came to the point where it was inevitable.
OTWS: So, in a sense, you're now trying to bring proper closure to your work together?
CG: In a way this is proper closure, because it healed a lot of wounds between us personally. We sort of walked away from each other to avoid having to deal with certain issues, all of which were essentially brought about by burnout. If we would have taken some time off, those years would have passed with all of us working together. We kept going nonstop from gig-to-gig and record-to-record without giving it a break, and were constantly in each other's lives.
OTWS: Over the years, many have spent a considerable amount of time describing your vocal style. Now here's your chance: How would you categorize your singing?
CG: People generally view me as a gospel-tinged screamer. That's certainly part of what I am, but if you listen closely, you'll discover all kinds of other subtleties. I don't like to describe what I do; it's just all there-everything I've ever heard and made use of, from African music to opera. My inspirations are wide-ranging, and I try to incorporate every one of them into my voice. It's a lifelong, ongoing process.
OTWS: For the better part of your career, you've relied upon Shure to capture your voice. Do you recall the first time you picked up a Shure mic?
CG: My relationship with Shure started the moment we went on the road and had to carry some of our own gear. I'm really tough on microphones; I mean just physically brutal. If I use a lesser mic than a Shure, I can actually feel the capsule breaking in my hands. A Shure mic is a true workhorse.
OTWS: When I've seen Living Colour perform live, the stage seems to be entirely Shure.
CG: I think we have almost everything they make. I even use some of the broadcast mics in my studio at home. At Long View [Long View Farm Recording Studios in Brookfield, MA, where the band began recording at the beginning of March -ed.] I'm using an SM7 for scratch vocals, and it sounds great.
OTWS: The SM7 has traditionally been an under utilized mic in recording studio applications. Why does it work so well for you?
CG: Like most Shure mics, it captures a true picture of your voice. It's a great ambient mic, too. While recording at home, I use it to establish the acoustical signature of the room.
OTWS: Your choice for live vocals has been Shure's U24D/ Beta 58® wireless, and you're on PSM® 700 personal monitors. What does the latter offer in terms of your singing?
CG: The monitors allow me to hear subtleties that I can't get with standard floor monitors. Plus now I don't have to push myself as hard to hear my own voice over loud-ass guitars or whatever. My real problem with floor monitors is that if the band is louder than the monitors, or the PA is louder than the monitors, I can't really hear myself; I'm hearing variations of processed signals that don't sound like me at all. With my ears in, I actually hear how I'm truly singing, and I can do little things with my voice I wasn't able to do before because I simply couldn't hear. In-ear monitors are consistently right there, and so is my pitch as a result. Another benefit is that I'm preserving my hearing. I want to be able to do this [sing] a very long time, and of course hearing is vital to that goal.
OTWS: As a group, Living Colour did its part for hearing conservation recently by performing at the Shure Musical Roots benefit concert during Winter NAMM at the House of Blues Anaheim. You helped raise $60,000 for the cause, which was donated to charitable organizations including H.E.A.R., HEI and HAMF. The show's crowning moment came when you assembled one of the largest and most diverse all-star casts I've ever seen for an extemporaneous jam. Keb' Mo' was trading licks with Los Lobos' David Hidalgo. Stewart Copeland was sitting in on drums; Sheila E. was there, and of course the inimitable George Clinton. How did you feel on stage and performing with all of these people?
CG: It was like a dream gig. Growing up, I had always wanted to be in the Police, and there I was playing with Stewart Copeland. All of us in Living Colour have also wanted to be in P-Funk, and there we were sharing the spotlight with George Clinton. The moment was right that night, and I'm glad we seized it. We won't get too many more chances like that in life I'm sure.
OTWS: Rock music seems to be looking for direction these days. Where is it headed?
CG: The great thing about the music is it has the ability to morph according to whatever is happening in the world around it. As a genre, it began as the bastard child of the blues, country, and gospel. Now it's converging with hip-hop and electronica. The music won't die-it's just in the process of taking another evolutionary step.
OTWS: Will we hear any of these new influences on what's coming out of Living Colour's Long View sessions?
CG: Definitely. I'd like to think the best is yet to come. Stay tuned and have a listen.