Lol Tolhurst Takes on Los Angeles

Lol Tolhurst Interview for Northern Transmissions With Adam Fink
Lol Tolhurst Photo by Louis Rodiger

Following your creative passions isn’t just a one-time thing. In most cases with people who identify as artists, it’s a lifelong pursuit. Even if you take some time away from it all, that passion starts to stir and you find yourself back in your studio or choice toiling away once again. Lol Tolhurst is no stranger to this. As a founding member of The Cure, Tolhurst has seen and been through a lot in his many years as a touring and recording musician. After leaving the band and moving overseas to Los Angeles, the multi-talented musician and writer has kept himself busy. His latest project is a fine example of Tolhurst’s creativity. Los Angeles is a sprawling and epic journey into the heart of what makes his adopted home tick. A collaborative effort with former Siouxsie and The Banshees drummer Budgie and celebrated producer Garret “Jacknife” Lee, Los Angeles expands on the rhythmic nature imbued in the two drummers and filtered through Lee’s studio mastery. It’s a dense, interesting, and forward-thinking electronic album that may surprise you coming from a few guys that have been in the industry as long as they have. When we reach Tolhurst at his home in LA on a beautifully sunny morning, the acclaimed drummer takes us through the ups and downs of the project and how it all came to fruition.

“A friend of mine was going to interview Budgie when he was passing through town with the musician John Grant and being friendly with Budgie throughout the years, I said this is perfect, let’s all meet for lunch,” the amiable musician explains about the project’s origins. “Now, I rarely do this but after our lunch, I said to Budgie, and I meant it, that we should do something together.” The initial collaboration took place at a pal of Tolhursts, another celebrated drummer Tommy Lee, during a few weeks when Budgie could come over from his home in the UK. “Tommy, who I’ve known for a long while, you know, all us drummers stick together,” Tolhurst says with a laugh, “had a place close to me with a studio that wasn’t being used and he suggested we take advantage of it.” The recordings that the pair did here were somewhat underwhelming to them both. Tolhurst decided to reach out to Jacknife, whom he met through friends, to take a listen to the recordings and offer up some advice. “I sent the recordings to Jacknife and by surprise, instead of suggesting things we could do to them, he invited us to his studio to start from scratch.” The newly anointed trio dove headfirst into the creative process. Banging out rhythms on the drums and filling the other spaces in the tracks with the wonderful array of synths and percussion that Lee has at his disposal. The team worked on tracks right into March 2020, when it turned out that because of the pandemic Budgie needed to fly back home to England.

“After Budgie left, which was mid-March 2020, we sat with these tracks not really knowing what we were going to do with them, and because of what was happening with the world and the fact that people were all at home, I decided to reach out to some friends and see if they have any thoughts on it and if they would want to add some vocals.” Tolhurst hit up some of his amazingly talented friends like James Murphy, Bobby Gillespie, Arrow deWilde, and The Edge, who all contributed to the songs. “We didn’t want to give them any guidance, just wanted them to listen to the tracks and add anything that they felt inspired to do,” Tolhurst explains. It was through this new round of collaboration that the theme of the album started to unfold before them. “James is a wonderful artist and he rarely sings on other people’s tracks but when we got back the vocals that he did for the song that would become “Los Angeles” it showed us that there was this underlying theme to the record that we wanted to explore.”

As Murphy sings on the title track Los Angeles is a place that “eats its children” when dreams shatter, it holds up a magnifying glass to the dichotomy of the city. It’s a place with endless potential and endless darkness when that potential isn’t realized and as Tolhurst’s adopted home, a place he knows quite well and has a different perspective on it with his being an “outsider”. “LA is a place that I do love. It’s where I met my wife and raised a family and as someone now from here or this country, I do have a perspective on it that others may not. It wasn’t until James sent his tracks in, that the idea of the record being about this city and the different facets of it actually came to mind.”

With the record now all finished and set for release on November 3rd via Play It Again Sam, Tolhurst is now looking forward to the next part of its journey in a live setting. “Myself and Budgie have been going over and working on what this is all going to look like and it’s exciting. We want to do a few select shows in some of the bigger cities, where we can get the collaborators who recorded with us to come out and perform on their tracks and also a stripped-down version with just me and Budgie, playing the songs and answering questions from the audience.” Tolhurst’s enthusiasm is absolutely contagious when discussing these plans and it’s wonderful to see someone who could’ve easily been jaded by the experience of performing and recording with bands for so long still excited to embrace the process. Once you have that fire in you, it’s clearly hard to extinguish and it’s great to see Tolhurst so clearly delighted to be sharing his experiences and music with people again. It’s the type of thing that helps show that once an artist, always an artist, and whatever Tolhurst and his collaborators cook up will always be a worthwhile endeavor.

Pre-order Los Angeles HERE.


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