Moody Blues' John Lodge talks about his life and music

Daily Press

John Lodge, bassist for The Moody Blues, is the man who made an otherwise mellow band rock.

His tunes “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band),” “Gemini Dream,” and “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone,” provided an up-tempo alternative to the English group’s silky, dreamy, orchestral classics such as “Nights in White Satin,” and “Tuesday Afternoon.”

Lodge says he’s still loving life as a traveling rock musician. “I’m 64 years old. We never thought we’d rock and roll till then … But that’s who I am. We tour. I’m a bass player. I’m not going to sit at home and wonder what I should be doing.”

I caught up with Lodge just after the band launched its current American tour, which brings it to the Constant Center in Norfolk tonight.

Welcome back to America. Where are you living these days?

At the moment, my wife and I are like the rock n’ roll gypsies. We travel around the world. At the moment, I’m living in Barbados. I came from Barbados directly to the U.S. We rehearsed for a week before the tour started … It’s Justin (Hayward), myself and Graeme (Edge). Then we have four other people with us on stage.

You still need to rehearse after all these years?

“Days of Future Passed” was 1967. So it’s been 43 years. It’s really important to rehearse. If anyone changes slightly, then you get away from the original feel. The most important thing about Moody Blues music is the emotion, whether it’s a rock ‘n’ roll song or a ballad, you’ve got to get the right emotion. The way to do that is to perform the song as truthfully as possible to the original recording, because that’s the song that people bought and people listen to … Every song has an emotional high point. You’ve got to develop that, as a writer, in the studio and you develop it on stage. You’ve got to take the audience with you on that journey.

Do the Moody Blues work on new material anymore?

The situation over the last few years with record companies, the demise of them, has changed the way everyone listens to music, the way everyone buys music. We’re always writing songs. It’s finding the outlets, the right way of getting your music to the public … When you buy an album, you get more than just the music. It’s a whole package, something you’d like to keep forever. When you download music, you’re just downloading that song. The last couple of years, we’ve devoted our time to traveling around the world playing live performances. I think we played 90 concerts around the world last year. That’s been really good. I think the time is coming when we will make a new album. Perhaps it will be next year.

Do you see yourself as a bass player first or a songwriter first?

I suppose bass player first. That’s what I learned to do first. I am a bass player at heart. I didn’t pick up the bass for any other reason except that I love bass. To me, it’s the driving force behind any song. It’s a driving force to any artist on stage. The bass isn’t only a rhythm instrument, it’s a melodic instrument as well. At heart, I’m firstly a bass player. Even today on stage, I still look down and think, “How do these fingers know where to go?”

The Moody Blues have been credited with launching progressive rock movement. How do you feel about that?

When we started we didn’t know what we were doing. That’s the real truth. We were just making different music to everyone else. From that, it became progressive rock music. Up to that point, people were really concentrating on 2-minute-50-second songs. We didn’t see that as a vehicle for music. Why stop there? If you wanted to have a 6-minute song, why not have a 6-minute song? We didn’t realize we were part of something new that exploded, really. I’m really proud, whether we started it or not. It’s something I’ve enjoyed all my life.

Which bands that came along in your wake do you like?

One of the bands that came directly after us was Genesis. I thought that was fabulous. And, of course, Queen, which was brilliant. And Yes. All of those bands are featured in my music library at home.

Any young rock groups you hear you like?

In a way, Snow Patrol. I like them… I like bands that actually play. Real music is what I want to listen to. I don’t really want to listen to people who are copying everything else or who rely on producers. I wouldn’t buy anything like that.

What would you like to say to fans?

I’m glad we all met. That’s the real thing I want to say. I’m glad it was through the music. The music has done more than convey to an audience. People who come to see us, they’ve made friends and acquaintances through the music. There’s a huge range of people throughout the world who are in touch with each other because of Moody Blues music. I just want to say thank you for that.

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