Little Feat: Ram’s Head Revisited and Richie Hayward’s Road to Recovery
That brings up an interesting point; that a physical CD is secondary. The primary, and in some cases, sole medium for releasing music is digital. Little Feat really came of age when the record industry exploded, and your original label was Warner Brothers, whose music division was an arm of an entertainment empire. Can you talk about the advantages/disadvantages of the ‘big machine’ versus the independence you have now?
Fred- I think it is better now. I have a lot more artistic freedom and control. The ‘big machine’ never worked for Little Feat. They could never quite figure out what to do with us. This whole digital thing has come around, and it’s almost like the old days when the single was the deal. You didn’t worry so much about an album. The difference then was that you had A&R guys that didn’t have a clue. You would have to jump through amazing hoops just to get a single out. Now, you can make a record anywhere. Literally anywhere, and put it out. It can go crazy, viral on the internet and everybody can be digging it. Never mind Warner Brothers.
Paul- The advantage back in those days was the distribution. And there were record stores. Major stores. Mom and Pop stores. As soon as it went digital, I’m surprised they didn’t see the writing on the wall. We were traveling a couple weeks ago in Washington in this van. The guy driving was playing a Black Keys CD on the stereo. One of our techs asked to take a look the disc. He popped it into his computer and, whoosh. I said, “Now, you know that’s not right.” He said, “We don’t call it stealing. We call it liberating.” I thought, “Whoa, that’s what that is.” Now, the only place to sell actual records is at your shows. Unless you are the Eagles and you sell them at Wal-Mart, which is ridiculous.
A week or so ago, Prince said the internet was over.
Paul- I wonder if Al Gore got the message.
I won’t speak for Prince, but I assume he was referring to the internet as a function of the music business. Is the internet a good thing or a bad thing for musicians?
Fred- I think it is great for musicians. There are so many ways you can share, so many ways you can collaborate. You can jam with a musician in, say, South Africa. Send files back and forth. It’s amazing. You don’t have to go to New York or L.A. to be heard.
Paul- It’s kind of strange when you think about how you are going to be paid for your work. In essence it was the same crapshoot when you were dealing with the record company because they were charging you for, you know, that paper clip. (Laughs)
Fred- And returns.
Paul- Oh, the mighty returns. And the person moving the paper clip had to get paid, too. So, it kind of balances out. The best thing about the internet is that it spreads the word much faster and gets it to a much wider audience.
In recent weeks, Little Feat has been offering free downloads from the upcoming Ram’s Head Revisited release. What was it about these three shows that you felt encouraged issuing a live album?
Paul- It really came about because a friend of ours, Gary Bowden, asked if he could come down and multi-track the band. It was, like, one Firewire cable that went in and spilt to 48 tracks or something. We said, sure, come on down. The other Ram’s Head record we have was all acoustic. This one is all electric.
Fred- Also, this is the first live recording without Shaun and the first with Gabe (Ford) playing (drums). Two major changes.
Paul- Some of the roughs that I’ve listened to are amazing. They sound really, really good.
Fred- I remember the performances were really cool.
Paul- We’ve got some gems in there. “Truck Stop Girl.” Walkin’ All Night.” Not the usual suspects.
So much has been written about Little Feat with Lowell George and without Lowell George. At the time of Lowell’s death, the band was on hiatus and there was a sense the band was finished. It’s strange to think of the Allman Brothers Band without Dickey Betts. Had Lowell not died, could you imagine a Little Feat without him?
Paul- Little Feat was his toy. Had he lived, it would’ve been up to him whether or not Little Feat continued. The funny thing about his passing was that the five remaining members at that time thought, “We’re done.” It wasn’t going to happen, until an impromptu jam session years later, where the music was the hook. It felt really good. We always had this standard. If it wasn’t going to be up to that standard, there was no sense in continuing. There are people on both sides of the fence; it’s not Little Feat without Lowell versus Little Feat is Little Feat, it’s always been a ‘band.’ All I know is that the music is great. The music is fun. The music wouldn’t be getting played at all, and Lowell’s memory would be pretty dim at this point, if we hadn’t gotten back together.
Fred- I was on the Thanks, I’ll Eat it Here tour with Lowell at the time. There was a lot of anger, but the night before he died he talked about wanting to get something back together.
The next five months looks very busy for the both Little Feat and the Paul and Fred duo. Is there a Little Feat studio album in the works?
Paul- I think it’s going to happen. Our manager has been talking with some labels.
Rumor is that it will be a blues record.
Paul- It wouldn’t be just a blues record, but in the genre. We’d have R&B, jazz, that kind of stuff. Typical Little Feat, really.