INTERVIEW:: It's Lightnin' Woodcock, Goddammit!

Written by Sylvia Juncosa.

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Lightnin Woodcock

By Sylvia Juncosa (aka Sly-J)

Hard music for hard people in hard times. Lightnin' Woodcock plays the blues with the devil's edge, punk rock thrashitude and freakin' metal guitar chops. And a foul, foul mouth.

 

We found Lightnin' by the roadside, waking up and wondering what city he was in. Sparkplug's Sly-J dragged him in to see what he has to say for himself.

Part 1: The Lore

SJ: Lightnin' where do you come from?

LW: I'm from downtown Los Angeles, goddammit. Right in the Arts District, other side of Little Tokyo.

SJ: But if I were to go by YouTube you just burst onto the scene [Sly didn't do very good searches lol], busting out rad guitar leads, singing with that foul mouth, and blowing everyone's minds. Where did this all come from?

LW: It comes from the experience of living in dirty downtown Los Angeles, it comes from Lightnin not bein' a spring chicken, I've been around the block, well over 20 years in Los Angeles. Times is hard. It's enough to give a person the blues. Lightnin' grew up playing punk rock and heavy metal music. What Lightnin' does is kind of a mixture of the three: blues, punk and metal. With lyrics that are deliberately explicit for the 21st century.

SJ: I was gonna ask about that. You've got a real musician's chops, and you've got the punky attitude, and you've got blues as far as song configuration. And then a metal bad-ass guitar. Interesting! Many of us started with punk, and kept that attitude, but as we learned how to play it morphed into something more metal.

LW: Well, I started with metal as a youngster. The chops kinda come first with metal. Then, I got into punk rock, and then the blues. That's the order in which my musical preference happened. I wouldn't say I just burst out on the scene - it would be kinda cool if that were true - but, I paid my dues, a lot, since 1986 when I moved to Los Angeles. I was in a lot of bands.

SJ: Which ones would you like to mention?

LW: The first one was kinda cool, it was called Psychadelicatessen, that was like 6 or 7 years around Los Angeles playing places like the Coconut Teaszer and the Central. From that I went into a punk rock wrestling band called Foreign Object, started by the late, great Stephen Daly Young. That was with Pat Hoed.

SJ: I know Pat. Good guy.

LW: Yeah. So we did that for a few years. It was wonderful. An exhilarating time of my life. I don't even have words for that time.

SJ: Yeah, for sure. It's weird how the scene has changed. What I wouldn't give to have that back ... take the Redwood for example, scene-wise it is the equivalent of, say, Raji's ...

LW: Yeah, I'd say Raji's.

SJ: But, Raji's held probably twice the number of people. Plus we had Lingerie, Teaszer, Al's Bar all going on at that same time too. All that just for the punk-ish bands. Now each scene has a sliver. You think that's how it is? And will it just stay that way? Maybe the slivers will keep getting yet smaller ...?

LW: Hell I dunno, Sylvia Juncosa, I wish I had a crystal ball to predict this kind of shit.

SJ: Downtown is good though. You're plugged in with some of that. You did the Hydroponic thing, and some fests ...

LW: We did the BloomFest three out of four years, some other downtown events. Occasionally, we get tapped to do stuff like that. Not usually! (laughs)

SJ: Cuz those are the cool things. ArtWalk for example is packed. There's definitely potential there right? How was attendance at BloomFest?

LW: Well maybe only 50 when we played. BloomFest is still growing. It started only four years ago, when Joel Bloom passed away. He was the owner of the general store over there at Traction and Hewitt, where Al's Bar was. So, he did a lot for the community there. They actually named that little section of road Joel Bloom Square. And they had the festival in his honor every year since he died.

SJ: Ohhh. And here I was thinking about flowers.

LW: Well actually he was responsible for planting a row of trees up and down the block there.

SJ: Nice! And then the other one you played was responsible for planting pot up and down the neighborhood.

LW: Heh - No, they're the one's responsible for providing equipment for people to grow pot in their homes. It would be awesome if you could grow pot up and down the street in Los Angeles. That would make downtown a much happier place.

SJ: My neighborhood would work out well too. It could be a field. We could put that sprawl to some good use. Most cities are more dense. That broadness that works against us in so many ways could be working for us.

LW: Yeah, it does make it difficult in the respect that we don't have an area like, say, 6th street in Austin, where you've got a tight grouping of clubs and people can go around to an area of town and bounce around from club to club, discover new bands easily. Everything here is sprawled out, between Downtown, Hollywood. Not to mention getting out into San Gabriel Valley, Inland Empire, all that. The whole area is huge. You could really, legitimately tour the area.

Part 2: The Hair

SJ: Did you ever have a ridiculous haircut?

LW: I've got one right now (displays a close-cropped dome with long sidelocks).

SJ: Even a hair-metal haircut?

LW: Oh yeah. I've had just about every haircut there is to have.

SJ: Could we post them? Display the phases of the Lightnin?

LW: Don't have those pictures at my disposal, otherwise I'd go for it

SJ: This part is for the ladies. You have a specialized beard. True?

LW: Yes, I do. I guess it resembles handlebars with a ... soft landing pad? something like that

SJ: The thing is, it sets a person to thinking ...

LW: It's got its utilitarian aspects. But a sweet beard does not a good pussy-licker make. There are a lot more actual learned skills.

SJ: You've got beard on the sides, and politely have no beard in the middle.

LW: Well ... how to put this ... that area can collect a lot of skank. When you're on the road, you can't shower every fuckin' day, you know? It's good to be able to wake up and just splash some water on your face and wash off whatever skank you might have accumulated the night before, rather than have it build up over time.

SJ: Does Lightnin' attract the crazy ladies? I picture Lightnin' with a saloon gal on each arm, feather boas ...

LW: Well, Sylvia Juncosa, there are people who would say that most women are crazy. Definitely Lightnin' has the propensity to pick up crazy ones. And hence having given Lightnin' the blues, time after time. But yeah I've run the gamut. From very sweet ladies to ... ok I'll just come out and say it: knife-wielding psychos. I ain't lyin'! I've had two fuckin' women pull big fuckin' kitchen knives on me. Big fuckin' butcher knives.

SJ: Now that's what I want to hear about!

LW: One of them was my prom date in eleventh grade.

SJ: ! how did that happen?!

LW: Well, long story short, I ended up making out with my prom date's friend, at the prom party -

SJ: Oh! minor detail omitted!

LW: I'm not saying Lightnin' didn't have it coming. Of course it was just Little Lightnin' back then.

SJ: Damn. So - I wasn't really so far off, then, when I was envisioning you being left by the roadside.

LW: Its happened a few times. Also, boyfriends and husbands ... I'm no stranger to fuckin' death threats being left on my voicemail.

SJ: That's actually a reason not to have a beard by the way - I had a friend who fought with a jealous boyfriend. The boyfriend had hold of that beard, the other hand on the top of his head, twisting - coulda snapped his neck. Just a warning on the beard front.

LW: I know. And some women tug on it pretty ferociously too. Not always the most comfortable thing.

Part 3: The Glove

Lightnin Woodcock

 

SJ: Oh and tell me about the glove!

LW: That's a gimmick Lightnin' developed originally back in 1985. I hadn't done that onstage until 2008. Traditionally, bluesmen have had all kinds of gimmicks to show their prowess on their instruments. Playing with their teeth, playing behind their head, playing with one hand while drinking a beer with the other, that kind of shit. That's Lightnin's way of showing what a badass I am. I play "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" for example without my hand ever touching the string, as per Lightnin's agreement with forces that shall remain nameless, forces with whom Lightnin' made an agreement at the Crossroads a few years back.

SJ: Ooh really! can you specify ...

LW: That's about all Lightnin' is at liberty to disclose.

SJ: Or you could play with the coon-hat. Or a ferret. (produces a toy ferret that just happened to be handy). In any case, we're getting some raised-up competition in the prowess department. There's some good guitarists around these days, in our scene, wouldn't you say?

LW: Well, that's good. There should be. There's a whole hell of a lot of us that have committed to being musicians, playing music. For a long time it seemed like there was a whole lot of motherfuckers that didn't give a shit about whether they could play well. I appreciate the fact that the kids are coming up and learning - it's actually pretty obnoxious walking through Guitar Center and seeing these little punk-ass teenagers his age (points to son Wolf, age 13) and younger shreddin' it up. And they can really play. It's great though. Gives us hope. There should be some pretty exciting music from the kids that are growing up nowadays.

SJ: I'd think there would be. But then I was just reading Johnny Wendell saying "rock is dead" and the future is DJ stuff.

LW: The immediate future maybe. It's up to the musicians to come up with something that's gonna be more interesting than fuckin' DJs. It's really up to all of us.

SJ: And to push to a new thing. Not just recycle what's been done the past forty years. Finding a new thing that's still rock yet a new thing. Now anyone can hear anything they want.

LW: And look what the kids are going to a lot? A lot of times the shit that we grew up with. I dunno about you, but I grew up with a lot of that classic rock - all that shit is very popular with the kids. Even Bob Dylan. Great influences. A lot of kids are into the blues. I meet 18-19-year-old kids who are bluesier-than-thou. That play harmonica or dobro. But it's all a matter of where they're gonna take it. Hopefully, they're not just gonna sit on that and play 60-year-old songs. And the styles of music that we know now hopefully will evolve into something that rocks.

SJ: I'm kinda thinking there's a seed of that in our little scene.

LW: For sure. If you look at the bands right now in the downtown scene that I consider to be punk rock don't necessarily sound like what we grew up thinking of as punk rock. Bands like Bastidas, Sassafras, Stab City and so on - it's punk as fuck but not limited by that label to being something unoriginal. One of the bands I just mentioned and pretty much all the bands I see play with those guys are pretty interesting, very original, bring something new to the table. Making it an interesting and exciting band to go out and see more than once every six months. These guys are fun to follow.

SJ: Even from show to show. It's fun to watch a band grow. And now we've got a mix of young bands and older bands.

LW: In my 20's playing around town it wasn't like I was looking to hook up with older bands and do gigs with them. I gotta hand it to these kids who are willing to cross generational lines.

SJ: It's different for them. I mean, for us - each album had more significance. Cuz you couldn't necessarily get ahold of every record you wanted. You had to seek stuff out. Now they've got everything available.

LW: I don't know of any generation before this where the parents and kids like the same stuff. When I was a kid, I didn't know anybody's parents who liked rock n' roll, or punk rock or any of that shit. Nowadays kids are being raised by those of us who grew up listening to that stuff. It helps me have a good relationship with him (Wolf, son of Lightnin') that we listen to the same stuff.

SJ: Heck yeah. I was sneaking out windows, hiding amps ... what about your parents?

LW: I wasn't in a band 'till I moved out. When I was still at home with my parents, I was just a jerkoff in my bedroom, fantasizing about being in a band, learning how to play to Black Sabbath records, stuff like that.

SJ: Did they come out later on to support you?

LW: My dad just saw Lightnin' Woodcock for the first time, my mom came out when I played in her town.

SJ: I wanted to get back onto other bands - who is the most badass on guitar? in our mileau?

LW: uh ... Sylvia Juncosa!

SJ: Ha - I mean who is number two? (laughs) [author's note: Lightnin' is a silver-tongued devil.] You know who I was impressed with the other day? Deke Dickerson.

LW: He's really amazing. Frank Fairfield makes Lightnin' want to go home and practice every time I see him.

SJ: You make me want to go home and practice.

LW: And of course the gentleman who used to partner with Frank Fairfield - Blind Boy Paxton, he's an amazing player as well. And ... Alex Sandoval, he does his own stuff. In Vegas.

SJ: Please excuse me if I'm ignorant of some people, I was gone for a while.

LW: The girl who plays for Screaming Females.

SJ: Now that, that's not allowed. That's my territory. :)

LW: We saw her at FYF Fest, they were impressive.

SJ: That's the other cool thing of the new time, festivals. Back to fun stuff - if you had an unlimited budget how would you deck out your tour bus?

LW: Y'know, I haven't had the opportunity to even fantasize about decking out a tour bus. I've had trouble even getting a van that can make it with out breaking down.

SJ: Just a van that works then, nothing more.

LW: I'm sure once I do get a vehicle that works I'll be fantasizing my way up to private jets and what-not. That's really the way to go. Private jet, naked chicks in the cabin with you, smokin' dope on the runway, that's the way to go. Have somebody else drive the tour bus, and fly from town to town.

SJ: Nice. Would it be supersonic - whoosh you're there - or would you go slowly, get the extra alcohol buzz goin'?

LW: Slowly, yeah definitely. The cool thing about private jets is anything goes. Sex, drugs. . .

SJ: And where would you want to go?

LW: Everywhere! Oh - the most places I've been I liked best were Spain, France, Italy, Germany ... in America I love Texas.

SJ: Did you get broken down?

LW: Well, I've got a pickup truck, can't tour in that

SJ: That makes no sense. You're paying all the gas of a van, but you can't leave it parked with your gear in it while you stop at 7-11. But, you could surf on the top of it ... Did you ever do stuff like that ... What else have you done besides music that was rad?

LW: Had a kid. That was pretty rad.

SJ: Probably the most rad thing of all. Is he gonna follow in your footsteps?

LW: Well, I cautioned him against it, told him not to. I tried. But it looks like he's going to anyway.

SJ: (to Wolf) Is that your plan? To be a musician?

Wolf: Well, I'm in a band right now -

SJ: Uk. He's gone.

LW: Yep, he's got the sickness. No doubt about it. I tried to be fair with him and say it probably will bring you happiness, but there are a lot of ups and downs. You probably will experience a lot of pain along the way if you do choose that path.

SJ: I found it too painful to NOT be a musician.

LW: I totally agree. People like you and me do bad things if we don't play music

Part 4: The Life

SJ: On stage you're badass, but a polite person in a normal setting. How to you reconcile the Lightnin' and the Bill? Do they sometimes not get along? Which one is the real one?

LW: It generally comes pretty naturally. It's all based on reality. It comes naturally - the same way that being an asshole in the bedroom comes naturally. You can't necessarily be that person in a social situation where you want to have friends and get along with people, but you get behind closed doors with a consenting adult, and a lot of us become a different person. I think the stage is very much the same thing, the same kind of dynamics. The same thing with - the way that you interact with an audience is very similar to how a couple interacts sexually.

SJ: It must be sometimes hard to ... to live ... being a Lightnin'.

LW: Well in real life I feel like being a nice guy, so that's what I am, and when I'm on stage I don't feel like being a nice guy. All the stuff that's inside of me when I'm not playing that I don't really get to say, gets to come out when I get on stage. Hence telling people to suck my balls, fuck everybody in the club, that kind of stuff. Goddammit!

SJ: Any last thing to tell the world?

LW: Fuck the world!

 

 

 

 

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