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Hey everyone, we’ve got a fantastic interview today with Dave LaRue who is just in between gigs because Flying Colors is out on the road. Kind of a rare thing, but we’re glad it’s happening right now. Welcome to call Dave!
Thank you very much. Great to be here.
Let’s start off with Flying Colors. The album “Third Degree” just came out and people have been getting their first full taste of it. What’s been your impression of the new album this third time around?
Well, I’m really proud of the album. I think it came out great. One of the most important things is I think it’s the best album we’ve done. And I’m really always pleased when I see the band continue to grow. So for me it’s a really enjoyable thing. And the response that I’ve both seen and heard from people has been really great and the crowd at the live gigs seem to really enjoy the new stuff. So all good so far.
What are the qualities that make you feel like the new album is standing even above the two predecessors?
Well, you know, it’s funny. As I prepared for the tour, I have to go back and listen to the older stuff and relearn the songs. So I was really pretty much A, B, C’ing the three records. Cause we’re doing a couple of tracks from each album. And it just became obvious to me that the performances, the recording, the lyrics, everything just seemed really a cut above the older stuff. Which, you know, is a normal thing. But I liked that it continues to head in the right direction as opposed to us repeating ourselves or putting out a lackluster product. Just like, Oh it’s time…we’ve got to do a record…okay, let’s rush through this, whatever, I don’t care. But no, I think the band, as I said, continues to grow and that became obvious to me as I was playing through the older stuff.
You guys took your time with this third one and I think it shows. In a way, it’s a much more consistent and mature offering. You’ve really established the Flying Colors sound now.
Yeah. Well said! That exactly what I’ve thought for a while. I couldn’t agree more.
On the track “Guardian”, you’ve got a nice extended solo section toward the latter part of, of the song. How did that section come about?
That’s pretty funny. We were working on the tune, and as we do we’re all together and we’re playing through stuff and throwing out ideas and discarding ideas and then putting things together. And we got to that point, it’s like, you know, we need to do something here. And Neal said: “This could be a great spot for a bass solo, Dave needs to take this!” So, it was Neal‘s idea! And of course I was like, “Okay, yeah, that’s a good idea! I second the motion!” So he was hearing it. And so we developed that whole section, worked on ideas and got a section for me to play over. And it ended up being a really long section at a really fast tempo, so it wasn’t that easy! But, it was a lot of fun. And I’m pretty pleased with the results, so yeah, that’s Neal chiming in!
Well it’s interesting because it comes right after this really nice guitar solo section, I think in nine/eight time, and then it just transfers right over to you and that’s really cool.
Yeah, and a whole nother mood. So, yeah, I like it. I think the song came out great.
It seems like on every album you have at least one piece that’s kind of a funk tour de force, and on this one the song would be “Geronimo”.
Did the whole band write that one together?
Yeah, I bought in the initial idea and then it morphs from there. Like the chorus and all that stuff got added to it. Because that’s basically how we write: people bring in ideas and concepts and things. But there’s a taboo on bringing in a full song. We just won’t do it. We’ve actually run into that and we said No, that’s a great song but you should put it on your solo record, or whatever. We really try to honor the idea of the five of us writing together. But we have to start somewhere. So everybody always brings in, like Casey will bring in some really great hooks he’s got and the tune will start from there. And then these guys are so amazing. They’re so prolific! Ideas start flying around. [laughs]So as I said earlier, I mean, we’re discarding and adding ideas as quickly as guys come up with anything. It’s an amazing process!
I bet it is. On the track “Geronimo”, who steered that song towards the Steely Dan vibe that it’s got?
Well, I mean, I guess the whole initial group thing is what sets that up. And then later we added the second section, which yeah, really says Steely Dan. In addition to the bursts and the groove that sets the tune up, then we have those hits which I can almost picture as being a horn section playing that, which is what Steely Dan would do. It just kind of morphed into all that. So yeah, it’s actually hard to remember what the process was. As I said, things are flying around and we’re trying things. But yeah, the Steely Dan analogy, you’re the first one that’s made that and that’s exactly what I thought.
Yeah, it suddenly goes into latter-day Steely Dan, but then it goes into a whole nother direction that’s signature Flying Colors. It’s its own thing.
Yeah. And I think the fact that it’s different than what we normally do is very Flying Colors in and of itself because there’s five personalities here and something different always is introduced. And that’s one of the things I love about playing with this band. I’m not good at playing one genre for an hour and a half. I’ll go nuts and then I’ll have to be replaced at some point. [laughs]So, one of the things that attracted me to this band is the fact that we’re diverse. And it’s great cause I get to play some things that are just very groove oriented. You know, like “You Are Not Alone” is a challenge to play what’s right, what musically helps the song. Like, that’s not a song for a bass solo! So, it challenged me to like keep it strong, make it groove and then enhance it when I can. And then there’s other things where there’s a lot of musical, you know, instrumental strength going on. And that’s fun too. Like “Crawl” and “Guardian” as you said. So it really keeps me interested and I know the other guys in the band are also of that mindset. So it works well.
I can see why this would be a band for you. I was listening to your solo album “Hub City Kid” a little while ago. And again, even right there, there’s so many different styles on that one album, you can get a sense that you don’t like to stand still.
Yeah. And in working with the Steve Morse Band, and The Dregs, it’s like the perfect gig for me because Steve, as I said, is of that mindset. We’ll play a hard rocking tune. And then the next thing you know, we’ll be doing a Baroque thing and then the next thing you know, Steve‘s just blowing over this incredibly fast bluegrass tempo. And then the next thing, like a song called “Night Meets Light”, it’s just this beautifully colored textured ballady thing where the time signature isn’t the same for more than two bars in a row. [laughs]It’s really challenging for me! I love that kind of playing.
And you guys, you, Steve and Van Romaine, just got the chance to get back together as the Steve Morse Band to do a short show at Morsefest. Did that gig feel great?
Yeah, it was really fun! That was Neal‘s idea also. I mean, Neal puts so much into Morsefest, he’s just amazing. His behind the scenes stuff is incredible! He’s the one that gets all the background singers and the strings prepared to go for both bands (the Neal Morse Band and Flying Colors) and then all the nitty gritty details, you know, overseeing merch and how people are flying in and all that stuff. Granted he has help, but he’s the force behind everything. And he really wanted us to play and he asked Steve again as we were approaching the deadline (Steve had initially blown it off) and then Steve asked me if we wanted to do it and I said, of course! And so we did. But you know, Neal really wanted that to happen. He thought it would be special and it was. It’s funny, I just played with another one of my bands up in the Northeast. We did a week’s worth of dates and Van was on that gig. So we’ve kind of gotten to play together a little more recently.
I was at that show at Morsefest and the crowd was just going nuts and loving it. It must’ve felt like a really nice return after about seven years since you had played out live?
Well, seven years since we played with Van, yeah. We’ve done a few things in between with Drew Betts who is the drummer from my band but not with Van.
Yeah. Do you think this has inspired you guys to maybe do some future recording or even live shows?
Well, we chatted about that. We’ll have to see. Steve‘s with Deep Purple and Flying Colors right now, he’s out doing dates. But yeah, we talked about that after. And actually Steve and I live close together, so as we were trying to prepare for Morsefest, I would go over to his place and we’d play together a little bit and the subject came up! So we’ll see where it goes.
Did it feel really good for you? Just getting back to that material again?
Oh, I love that material. Of course. Yeah, it’s some of my favorite stuff. The Steve Morse Band is like the ideal gig for me. I also like that it’s a trio. So needless to say, there’s a lot of room for me to play!
Well, getting back to Flying Colors, you guys are out on the road now and you’ve got just a handful of dates that’s kind of crisscrossing with Steve’s Deep Purple touring schedules. So it’s really unusual that way. I was curious, is it a challenge for you playing such short tours with Flying Colors? Like do you feel the band can really hit their stride with so few shows?
It’s tough. I mean, that’s a good question. Yeah, it’s definitely tougher because as you play more shows consecutively, it just becomes so much easier and things get locked in and you start just doing things instinctively. But when they’re spread out, you have to kind of constantly reinforce it and just make sure you’re doing what you need to do. So the little things can get lost. The nuanced things that start to happen when the show is just second nature. It’s hard to get to that point when the gigs are so spread out. But you know, the musicians in the band are all really top notch. So, we manage. And actually, that’s what I was doing today. We played the show in New York recently and I’m just reviewing for Friday night’s show today. Just to make sure I’m up on the stuff and keeping it fresh because we didn’t play a show for two days.
How did the New York show go the other night?
Oh, it was great. It was packed and the crowd was great which was nice to see. I mean they really wanted the new material, too. So it was a fun show.
Now that the album’s out, New York might have been the first time you’ve played a couple of more new songs from the new album, is that right?
Correct. Yeah, we added a couple of tracks. We did three at Morsefest, cause the videos had already been released, we added two more. We added “The Loss Inside”, and “Love Letter”.
Any hopes of adding even more of them as you get over to Europe or further in the tour?
Well, I don’t think we’ll add anything to the European dates that we have now. But there’s talk of doing more stuff, we’ll just have to see how it falls with everybody’s schedule. It’s always tough with this band!
Well, it would be great. It’s such a strong album, it’d be great to hear songs like “Last Train Home” and “Geronimo” and “Cadence” and “Guardian”, on and on.
Yup. Well, “Geronimo” is next on the list. We were going to try to do that, but Mike and Neal were getting ready to go over and record a new Transatlantic album. So they just kind of begged off on that. Cause we did have “Love Letter” and “The Loss Inside” and so it was like, “That’s enough, come on, I’m getting overwhelmed here!” But “Geronimo” is next. We may add that for Chicago. I’m pretty positive we’ll do that in Europe. I can’t say 100% positive, but I’m pretty sure we’re going to do that. And Casey wants to get “Last Train Home” into the set too, so that may happen as well, too.
Yeah, that’s such a classic Flying Colors song, it’d be great to hear that live, too. And then of course you guys are on the ship again, the Cruise to the Edge, next year as well.
Yup. And we finally get to do full shows!
That’d be nice. For listeners who may not know, Flying Colors has actually performed twice already on Cruise to the Edge, but neither time has really been announced ahead of time. It’s been sort of surprise shows.
Yeah, we were surprise guests and we played for like 45 minutes and that was it. So it was great. I took my family and we just had a vacation! But the first time we went was nice. Well actually, there’s two funny stories. First of all, they were trying to keep this secret and they hustled us all on the boat and got us on there and there was some mess up with my son’s passport. So over the loudspeaker, they paged me! So much for the hiding out thing! But the good thing was we played the sail-away concert, so we played for 45 minutes first! We kicked the thing off and then I was done! I was on vacation. I was like, wow.
Yeah, I was actually on the ship for both of those times. And I remember, I was sitting in the dining room and even in the dining room over the loud speakers, you hear “Mr. Dave LaRue, will you please check in?” And in the whole dining room, everyone busts up laughing like, Well, I guess that cat’s out of the bag now. And Mike is probably pissed that it’s not a secret anymore!
Yeah, I heard about it from him! I was like, “Well, what am I supposed to do?” [laughs]I mean we were getting ready to sail away and they were like, we gotta have this paperwork on your son. You know, there was a confusion, so yada yada. So we got it worked out.
Yeah. So, the relationship between the bass player and the drummer is so key to finding the groove and the feel of each project that you’re in. And so with your own sense of musicality, how much do you find yourself coming towards what the drummer is playing, or rather leading the rhythmic charge, or do you meet somewhere in the middle?
Oh, I think we meet somewhere in the middle. Mike is such a great player. He’s really strong and I’m always trying to do the right thing in terms of how we both play together. It’s fairly easy. The only time I really dig in and push a little bit is when he has to sing. Although I have to admit, he’s probably the best singing drummer I’ve ever played with. But I do try to just help him out if need be all, to keep it strong. A lot of singing drummers I play with, the bottom just falls out and the time starts to sag and it’s like, “Whoa, hold on, hold on!” But he’s really good and we’re really simpatico in a lot of ways. It’s a very easy gig, I never worry about that with him. We get along well musically.
Is there a drummer that you haven’t played with yet that you’d really love to have that opportunity?
Well, I’m very fortunate. My career has been great. I’ve played with all the great guitar players and some really great drummers. Rod Morgenstein, Van, I did Planet X for a while, so I worked with Virgil Donati for two years or something. One of my favorite drummers is actually Jeff Campitelli, whom I played with in the Joe Satriani band. That guy has the biggest pocket in the world. I mean, it was fun and that was a little bit of a simpler gig for me in many respects. But it didn’t matter because it just felt so good, the groove was so strong, Jeff‘s really great at that. So I enjoyed playing with him. I mean, that was not a chops gig where we’re all freaking out, (unlike Planet X) so that was fun. And I’m forgetting people, so I apologize for those who I’m leaving out, but I’m more kind of thinking of who we’ve been talking about. And Mike Portnoy of course. Oh, and Mike Mangini. I probably shouldn’t mention them in the same breath! I got to do G3 last year for five months with John Pettruci and Mike Mangini was on that gig. So that’s another great drummer I can chalk up. I mean, there are so many great players, like Dennis Chambers, I can go on and on! But let’s just say that I’m really blessed to have been able to play with so many great musicians, many drummers and a ton of guitar players. I played with a lot of great guitar players, so I’m really fortunate.
And does your approach to bass playing change significantly at all depending on the guitarist?
Well, depending on the music, really. I mean, I approach some songs differently within Flying Colors. Within the set my mindset will change a little bit depending upon the tune. So it’s more about that. Doing Joe‘s gig was one thing and doing John Pettruci‘s was an entirely different thing. So yeah, I adjust my mindset. But it’s really more about what the music requires. Like I said, with Joe and Jeff was playing drums, his music tends to be a little simpler bass-wise and my role changes. But it was a really fun gig because it was all groove oriented, so I wasn’t bored, you know. I mean it was all about that! What’s the best I can do for the music?
You’ve got a new project out now with your old friend Glenn Alexander. What can you tell us about the new band L.A.X.?
Well, actually Glenn and I have been playing gigs, we’ve been playing together for so long and he’s one of my best friends in the world and we wrote all this music together and finally got it all recorded over the course of several years. So we wanted to release that and we actually just did a bunch of shows, up in the New York area, in the Northeast and Van played with us and it was really fun. It’s a different kind of project for me. We like to call the band sort of a combination of Stevie Ray Vaughn and The Dregs. So there’s a little bit more of a bluesy thing. And of course I inject some funk into that too, but there’s a lot of chops. A lot of unison lines and of course a lot of bass solos and that kind of thing. It’s really a power trio basically, but a little more leaning towards the blues thing, than the prog-rock thing. But it’s a really fun project for me. And I think the album turned out great and Glenn‘s turned into a great singer. He’s always been a great guitar player, but his vocals on the record are really good. And I got to sing background on some stuff. That was fun for me, it’s a fun experience. And of course we write all these crazy parts that we have to sing over! It’s tricky!
So why haven’t the boys in Flying Colors been able to convince you to be a fourth vocal?
We don’t need it now. I mean, we write for the three guys and that’s good. But these guys are all so good. And we’re happy with that!
Anything you want to let people know who may not be aware of the Dave LaRue band?
Well, that’s a band that I have here in Orlando that I work with when I’m off the road. And actually it showcases all of my compositions. That’s all my stuff. That’s a little proggier. It’s instrumental. A great guitar player named Bobby Koelble plays guitar and a great drummer Drew Betts. Those are my local guys, but they’ll be on the record with me. I mean they really are outstanding players. So we’re in the middle of recording that too when I have time. It’s hard to get all this stuff done! But we have all the material and we started cutting some tracks. So that’s sometime later this year or next year.
Wow, fantastic. You’ve got a lot going on right now.
Yeah. Gotta stay busy!
Well Dave, thanks so much for talking with us for a bit and I hope the remaining shows are great with Flying Colors. Anything else you want to mention before we head out?
No, that’s it. Thanks for having me on Sonic Perspectives and thanks for the great questions and the good conversation. It was fun and easy!
Oh well, I’m glad for that. And I always appreciate you playing out live. So I’m really glad you’re so busy and so many people are getting to enjoy you now. And big congratulations on the new Flying Colors album because it is a great recording.
Well, thank you so much. I’m glad to hear that. Let’s talk again! Bye, bye.