Thursday, 27 December 2018

Lions & Ghosts: Eat Burritos, Talk About "Wild Garden," And Consider Changing Their Name To The Puppet Show


Rick displays the Wild Garden cassette which Chris
 later gives to the interviewers. Meanwhile, Mark tries
to look as much like Nigel Tufnel as possible. 
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Originally published in Rave-Up #17 (1989)

Interview by Devorah Ostrov & Michelle Castro

This story started with a kidnapping. You see, before he joined Lions & Ghosts, Chris McNeal was a homeless waif. Michelle found him wandering the streets of Los Angeles and, much taken with his wacky sense of humor, shoved him in the car and drove him to San Francisco.

After a while Chris found his way back to Los Angeles, watched the house he was staying in burn to the ground, and joined Lions & Ghosts.

The story picks up again in San Francisco. Lions & Ghosts (vocalist Rick Parker, guitarist Chris McNeal, guitarist Michael Lockwood, bassist Mark Gould, and drummer Micheal Murphy) were here to play some shows, but we found them wandering up and down Haight Street. Two days later, we figured burritos and an interview were well in order...

Lions & Ghosts pose backstage at Berkeley Square, 1989.
L-R: Rick Parker, Chris McNeal, Mark Gould, 
Micheal Murphy and Michael Lockwood
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Michelle & Devorah: Hi!

Guys: Hi!

Rick: These interviewers don't have any questions prepared, so we're gonna conduct the interview. What's good to eat here?

Devorah: Why don't you start by telling us about the history of Lions & Ghosts?

Rick: The band's been around for about five years. It started in Los Angeles. We were friends hanging out in this house... It was kinda a party house in Hollywood.

Michelle (who can sense a scandal when she hears one): So, you're saying you party a lot and do drugs!

Rick: No! No! That's just where we met. So, then... we started jamming at THAT house for fun and we started playing some shows around town just for fun. One thing led to another and we started getting a big following down south and ended up with a record deal.

Rick Parker
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Michelle: Okay... So, you have different people in the band now. What happened?

Chris: What kind of burrito is that?

Michelle: Chicken.

Rick: Our original bass player left the band right before we started recording the album [Wild Garden]…

Michelle (scanning the veritable who's who of credits on Wild Garden): What's this Pete Comita business?

Rick: Pete Comita is a friend of our manager. He's a phenomenal musician. He's been in bands like Foghat, Black Oak Arkansas, Cheap Trick... We now have a bass player. Pete had prior obligations and couldn't be the permanent bass player for the band.

Michelle: And Benmont Tench from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers…

Devorah: And Ian McLagan...

Rick: Formerly of the Stones and the Faces, but you can hardly hear any keyboards on the record. We just kinda brought those guys down for inspiration.

Michelle: So, what stuff do you like? I know you don't know much about Iron Maiden, but what are your influences?

The original four-piece lineup with bassist Todd Hoffman
Rick: We grew up listening to the Stones, the Beatles, the Doors, the Kinks, the Who...

Micheal M: The MC5...

Chris: The Partridge Family, the Ohio Players, Hot Chocolate...

Michelle: Where did find Chris? Hanging out on Sunset Strip?

Rick Parker and Mark Gould
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Michael L: He was Bowie's right-hand man and we said, "Dave, listen... We could really use Chris." Bowie has Tin Machine now.

Devorah: We heard a rumor that Chris beat out a guy from Badfinger at your auditions.

Rick: Who told you that?

Devorah: You did! At the soundcheck.

Rick: Oh. Well, there was a guy from Badfinger, a guy named Glenn. He was an amazing musician, a real nice guy. But Chris does hair...

Devorah: So, tell us about Wild Garden. How's it doing? Is there a single?

Rick: The album has been out about two weeks now, and it's getting massive radio play across America. The first single is "Arson in Toyland." We just finished filming the video for it, which MTV should start showing next week.

Chris McNeal
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Michelle: Do you burn stuff down? Tell us about the video.

Rick: We burn down a palm tree. It's sort of an LA icon and we sacrifice it to the Gods! Actually, we got in big trouble for burning it down. We pretended like we didn't do it. We pretended that we were just driving by and saw it burning.

Michael L: We started whistling.

(Rick makes a grab for Michelle's burrito, but is gallantly intercepted by Chris.)

Chris: Hey! That's the lady's food!

(As Rick and Chris argue over the burrito, Micheal Murphy and Michael Lockwood make their exit. Mark seizes the opportunity to join the party.)

Devorah: Did you guys know Mark before he joined the band?

Rick: We auditioned 600 bass players in LA and he won. It was a "cattle call" as they say.

Devorah: And you picked him because he looks like Nigel Tufnel from Spinal Tap.

Another group photo from Berkeley Square.
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Mark: What?!

Rick: He looked the most like Nigel Tufnel, so we had to pick him! We're asking him to change his name to Nigel.

Michelle: The truth comes out! What we've been saying behind your back! We love Nigel, really. You look just like him.

Rick: It's really an honor to have someone say that, y'know.

Michelle: So, what's your most commonly asked interview question?

Rick: How did you find your name?

Michelle: How did you find your name, dudes? Why Lions & Ghosts instead of … Partridges & Peartrees?

Rick: In all seriousness, we wanted to form a band that had a real tangible rock 'n' roll side and a kind of mysterious, ethereal quality — the Lions being the former and the Ghosts being the latter. Lions & Ghosts was the name of a poem I'd written. We were looking for names and it sounded appropriate at the time. In retrospect it might have been a grave mistake.

Michelle: A grave mistake... Why?

The band's two EMI albums
Velvet Kiss, Lick of the Lime (1987)
Wild Garden (1989)
Rick: Certain radio promoters have said that we should change our name. It's too weird, or something.

Michelle: Satanic, dude!

Devorah: Have they given you any suggestions as to what to call the band?

Rick Parker
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Rick: Actually, one suggested we change our name to the Puppet Show!

Michelle: Like in Spinal Tap! "We've got a bigger dressing room than the puppets!"

Devorah: Since we haven't heard your records, maybe we could discuss...

Rick: You haven't even heard the fucking records?

Devorah: I just found out you're not a death rock band!

(Chris kindly hands us a cassette tape of Wild Garden.)

Michelle (reading some of the song titles): "Farewell in Hell," "Flowers of Evil"... Oh, you're not death rock!

Mark: They got you there, dude.

Chris (making the sign of the cross at Rick): On the softer side of Satan, that's us.

Rick: Read the last line of "Flowers of Evil"... [He sings it for us instead] "I'm in a big field of flowers/Like Satan on ice."

Chris: It's true!

Devorah: Since we obviously haven't got a clue, are there big differences between the first and second albums?

Chris McNeal and Mark Gould
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Rick: Umm... Wild Garden is a little more Satanic. Actually, there is a big difference. Our first album was produced by Tony Visconti and Peter Walsh, who do real English-sounding bands [Simple Minds, Gene Loves Jezebel]. The guy who did Wild Garden [Thom Panunzio] is much more of a straight-ahead, American producer. He'd just finished doing Joan Jett's record.

Devorah: You mentioned that Lions & Ghosts was the title of a poem you'd written. When did you start writing poetry?

Rick: When I was in high school, sitting in the back of the room with my journals. I was one of those "stoner" kids. I just sort of hung out in the back of the room and wrote poetry.

Devorah: Do you remember the first song you wrote?

Rick: No, but I can tell you the first song Lions & Ghosts wrote. It was called "Capture," and it's on this record. We didn't put it on the first record because the producer didn't like it.

Rick Parker
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Devorah: According to your itinerary you were just up in Oregon. Isn't that where you pulled into a gas station in the middle of nowhere and they were playing your record on the local radio station?

Rick: How'd you hear about that?

Michelle: We took a wild guess.

Devorah: You told us about it the other day!

Rick: Oregon's a weird state. We pulled into some town and they wouldn't let us stay at the hotel. They said, "We've had bad luck with rock bands. We don't want any rock bands in this hotel." We found out that back in the '50s Bill Haley and the Comets had caused some problems at the hotel!

(Michelle has somehow, through hysterical laughter, manipulated an ice cube in her mouth in a "suggestive" manner.)


Rick Parker
Photo: Devorah Ostrov
Rick: Oh, no! Don't get erotic on me with the ice cubes. There was this girl last night... It seemed like she would do anything! She had this maraschino cherry and she was going like this in front of me...

(Rick demonstrates the erotic maraschino cherry trick.) 

Michelle: What'd you do? Hit her over the head?

Rick: We invited her back to show her the guitars. We have some "special" guitars in the van that we only show to certain people.

Michelle: Yuck! I thought you'd have some good story, but no! You're just like everyone else! Sleazoids!

Rick: We're not sleazy! Actually, we have lots of class. We do! Talk to anyone in LA, we have a spotless reputation.

Chris: We've never talked like this before. It's quite interesting.

Devorah: This interview is pretty hot.

Rick: Steamy!

(At that moment plumes of hot steam rise from the burritos being prepared behind us.)

Chris: Steamy ... It worked! You are the Devil, Rick Parker!

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