Interview for Calico Skies Radio • 2014

Interview with Laurence Juber

Interview of Laurence Juber
Published by:
Calico Skies Radio
Interview by:
Julio Martínez
Read interview on Calico Skies Radio
Timeline More from year 2014

Songs mentioned in this interview

Go Now

Officially appears on Wings Over America

Love Awake

Officially appears on Back To The Egg

Oriental Nightfish

Officially appears on Wide Prairie

Spin It On

Officially appears on Back To The Egg

With A Little Luck

Officially appears on London Town

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In your book “Guitar With Wings”, are there any photos ever published before?

Yes. I had many photographs that had never been published so I was offered an opportunity to have them put out in a book so I agreed to do that. It was a lot of work ‘cause I had to go through all the pictures from when we were recording Back to the Egg and many of the photographs are from those sessions, fromRockestraandLympne Castle and from Scotland. It tells my story about my background as a musician and how got into Wings and talks a lot about recording Back to the Egg and then a number of photographs are from the UK tour in 1979 that were taken by my brother. So it’s a nice kind of range of pictures and information so you understand who I am, how I got into Wings, from being a studio musician in London and a little bit about my life after Wings also.

Is photography your second passion after music?

Yes, I do. I like to take photographs so when I was in the group I took a lot of photographs because I would see Linda doing thatand I thought, ‘Well, this is something that I could do too’. So I got myself a good camera and I took a lot of pictures. No flash, no flash photography, only black and white andfirst color films.

What was Linda as a photographer? Did she give you advice?

Oh yes, very much. She was a very interesting woman andit was easy to kind of look how she would take photographs and the kind of films she used, and she was very generous with her advice.

What did Wings mean in your career as a musician?

It was an important step in my development as a musician. My ambition was to become a studio musician which is what I have, which is what I did in London in the mid-70s.  I became very very busy as a studio player. Joining Wings took me out of that world and introduced me to a whole different kind of music business. Then, after Wings I went to America and became a studio musician here again. So I looked at the Wings period very much like as part of my education. It was a very valuable period of learning how to make music and how to be in the music business from a master of that in Paul McCartney and I got to be in a really cool rock and roll band too.

Did you like Wings as a band? Used to listen to it?

Yes.  I mean I was a fan of Paul McCartney. I was not quite so much a fan of Wings when you think about their songs. When I joined the band in 1978, the single at that time was With a Little Luck and the single in Europe before that was Mull of Kintyre. So, a lot of very pop records. Even when I joined Wings with Back to the Egg, it was more of a rock band. That pop sensibility was really part of what made Wings successful so songs like Silly Love Songs, Listen to What the Man Said, really great pop record but with Back to the Egg we were much more of a rock band. So there’s an interesting balance between the pop sensibility and the rock sensibility. I think with Steve Holley joining the band, who was very much an English rock drummer, it kind of took it in a different direction. So for me, as a studio musician, as kind of this hired gun young guitar player, this kind of music that I was listening to was a lot more kind of fancy guitar work. I mean whether there were people like Larry Carlton or Lee Ritenour, all the LA West Coast of America kind of jazz fusion players. Al Di Meola, from the East Coast, bands like Weather Report or Steely Dan. I was into the more kind of progressive side of it less so with Wings was more of a pop group so I didn’t listen quite so much for that stuff. But as a studio musician, I listened to a lot of pop music because that was the genre that I was working in. I was playing on pop records so I needed to have all kinds of sounds, and the right kind of understanding of the kind of music that was on the charts. So it’s kind of a range of musical styles. One of the things that got me into Wings was the fact that I was versatile, that I could play a lot of different styles.

Is it true that you were chosen to audition for Wings for a performance of Denny Laine’s ‘Go Now’?

Yes. I was playing guitar on a TV show for David Essex. He was a big English pop star, he had the song Rock On and Denny Laine was a guest on the show and when we played Go Now, which was his feature on that TV show, I played the guitar solo on it and he liked the way I played.

How was the moment you met Paul McCartney?

The first time I met Paul McCartney was before I auditioned for the band. I was working in a studio in North London and Paul and Wings were there doing some recording, working on the Wings Over America material. I think the movie.I was in the men’s room. I met Paul McCartney there. He was washing his hands and I was with a bass player named Herbie Flowers, who is a great English bass player, studio musician and he was an old friend of Paul’s and introduced me and we said ‘Hello’ and that was it. And then, some months later, after I had played with Denny, I ran into, at a different recording studio, I ran into Wings with Paul, Linda and Denny, when they were working on something that Linda’s called The Oriental Nightfish, which was some music for a cartoon, an animation film. And they invited me into the studio and I got to meet them. I got to meet Linda for the first time and re-meet Paul and Denny had mentioned to them I was a guitar player that he was looking at as a possible player for the band. But I didn’t know that at the time. It wasn’t until many months later that I actually got a phone call to go an audition for the band.

Are you still keep in touch with Paul McCartney?

Not so much. I keep in touch with his office. When I was doing the book, I had to deal with them to get permission to use a few pictures in the book, Wings publicity pictures and I needed to talk to them about it. So they were very gracious about being able to use material like that. He was actually in Los Angeles a couple of days ago, playing at Dodgers Stadium but I was in Colorado, playing at a guitar festival. So I’m expecting that I would see him next month so I would get to say ‘Hello’ to him there.

Would you like to play with Paul again?

Yes. I can’t imagine ever playing with Paul. He has this fantastic band. He doesn’t really look back and say, ‘Oh, I’d really like put Wings back together’. He said he would never do that without Linda anyway. But I think it’ll be fun to play with him again but I have my own career so I don’t wait for him to call.

What feelings do you have when you get on stage?

I love playing the guitar and I love playing for audiences and being a performer was what I set out to do originally. I wanted to be a studio musician but really for me, being able to get up on stage with a guitar and play my own compositions and arrangements of Beatles songs and Wings and Hendrix, Pete Townsend, old American standard songs. I love being able to entertain an audience with the guitar and I still learn new things and have new challenges. It keeps it exciting. I’m a guitar player, and an artist, and an arranger, and a composer, and a producer, and a studio musician and I do a lot of different musical things but at the root of it all there’s the fact that I love to play guitar.

What other instruments do you play? In ‘Love Awake’ you play bass…

A little bit, yes.  I can play a little bit of piano but not very well. I’d play whatever is appropriate and needed. It might be I’d play the guitar on the record. I may play the mandolin or banjo. I played banjo for the Muppets movie. It’s all part of what I do as a musician.

How did it feel to be a two-time Grammy winner?

The last Grammy was really exciting because it was very unexpected. The first Grammy was from Rockestra from Back to the Egg. That was a complete surprise because we had now idea that we had been nominated and we had no idea that we had won. It wasn’t until the Grammy itself arrived in the mail, and I opened it up and I realized it was a Grammy and I called up Paul’s office and I said, ‘Did we win a Grammy?’ and he said, ‘Yes, we forgot to tell you’. It was right after Paul had been busted in Tokyo. They had other things on their mind.

January 1980, was it Wings’ worst moment?

It wasn’t at a good time especially because we as a band were really ready to take on Japan. If that had gone well, we would have done an American tour later that year. But it wasn’t the end of Wings. Wings continued for over a year after that.

Did the separation from Wings catch your attention as a surprise?

A little bit. We had rehearsed that new material but the problem really was that it was pop songs and the Wings that we had really developed was really more of a rock and roll band. It was the way we were rehearsing. If we had just simply gone in the studio and started recording, we could have done more creative work.The problem was that we were in a rehearsal room at the rehearsal studio that I don’t remember which name it was, and we had electric guitars and drums and everything and maybe we were doing a song that didn’t need electric guitars but maybe it was more of an acoustic guitar song. You know, at recording studio, you just pick up an acoustic guitar and you play it that way but in a rehearsal you don’t have the same flexibility.  So you had material that was really designed to be kind of recorded in a pop music kind of sensibility but with a band that was really kind of ready to rock and roll. I think that it just wasn’t the right material for that particular band. At that pointDen really didn’t have much input creatively. Linda was really not very involved in that process either. For Wings to be Wings you really needed Linda there. I think that everything was changing; it was a change of direction for Paul. He didn’t really need a band at that point because they had decided they weren’t going to tour. It was a band that didn’t need rehearsing material that didn’t need a band. It really wasn’t kind of developing the way it might have developed if he had been focusing;let’s say a rock and roll attitude, when we could have very easily whipped an album into shape fairly quickly. We were ready and kind of primed to do that. So I think a different era. We were already into the 80s at that point and Wings belonged to the 70s I think.

Did Paul call you to tell you that Wings was done?

Before that he called me and said, ‘Do you wanna come to France and record with Ringo?’ so we did the tracks of Stop and Smell the Roses album. That was a fun project and then later, in November of 1980, Paul called up and said, ‘George Martin is gonna produce this record and he wants to use studio musicians. We still got together in January of ‘81 and finished our workwith Cold Cuts so Wings wasn’t quite finished at that point. I think that because they didn’t want to tour anymore, there was no reason to have a band.

What is your opinion of the album ‘Back To The Egg’?

I think that Back to the Egg Is a really really good album, and it is a very underappreciated album. Of all the Wings albums, it seems to be the one that people point to and say, ‘That’s the most rock and roll of all of them’. And you remember the album is credited not to Paul McCartney and Wings but just to Wings. I think that as time has gone on,it really has been more and more appreciated for being a good album and I’m very happy and proud of the work I did on it. I think I made a good contribution to that record. I think that Steve made a good contribution to that record and there were some really cool things about it. The Rockestra stuff is really great and some of the songs like Spin it On, very different kinds of songs. Spin It On is a really kind of punk rockabillysong, beautiful McCartney ballad. Baby’s Request is one of those kinds of old tunes. I think in all of the Paul McCartney albums, I think that the Back to the Egg stands out as being something of a special record.

What is your favorite song on the album?

I particularly like Spin It On because I have a strong memory of doing the guitar solo on that. I also like even We’re Open Tonight;I think it’s a really cool mix. I like Again Again Again, Denny’s song, I think that’s a really strong song and I mentioned Love Awake, I like the Rockestra stuff. It’s very hard to pick one song and say, ‘That’s my favorite’. It’s kind of an interesting, slightly different album from Paul and I think there was a group consciousness about it. In my book, Guitar with Wingsyou see the pictures of the sessions and it kind of gives you an extra dimension about the album and you get a sense of the space it was recorded in and the kind of energy that was going into the recording.

What instrument does Paul play in the photo on the back cover of ‘Guitar With Wings’?

Yeah,the concertina. It’s like a small accordion and he was sitting outside when we recorded it and he sang and played it at the same time and it was really just a very special moment and I think that’s a very sweet song. It’s a very pure and honest song.

How was the process of recording the album in a castle?

Difficult. It’s hard to get the sounds right in the castle. When we did it was really great. Putting an acoustic guitar inside a spiral staircase, getting a natural echo and being able to put a guitar amp in a big open hole and turn it up and get a really old school kind of rock sound. There were some very interesting sounds that came out of that record. But it was not all in the castle. Some of it was done in Scotland, some of it was done in Abbey Road.

Was recording at Abbey Road very special?

Yeah, Abbey Road is extremely special. That’s a unique place. In Los Angeles I work at Capitol a lot and Capitol is the kind of version of Abbey Road. But all these recording studios have been around for many many years, and have great microphones,there’s a certain atmosphere about them that is really inspiring.

You did another work dedicated to Wings as ‘One Wing’, on record, did Paul have a chance to listen to it?

Yes, he did. When they played itto him, he asked the manager, ‘What is it that you want to call it?’ and they said he wants to call it OneWing and Paul said,  ‘Brillant!’, which was very nice, because his manager said they were not happy with me calling it One Wing. They didn’t like me using Wing in that context but Paul was fine with it ‘cause he liked the album. It was his idea. He was actually the one who suggested doing an album of Wings because that was my first time I’ve done an album of Beatles and he said, ‘What about Wings?It’s hard to say no to Paul. It took me a few years before I really got into doing that.


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