Grammy Award-Winning Wings Guitarist Has Eclectic Inspirations

Tuesday, March 6, 2012 12:58

An Interview with Laurence Juber

by: Casey Pukl

Two-time Grammy Award-winning Laurence Juber embraces all kinds of music. The former Wings guitarist is not only steeped in the rock and roll tradition, but he also embraces jazz, pop, folk, video game scores, movie scores, and anything else he can get his hands on. His philosophy on music is simple— play what’s appropriate in the moment, and be inspired by a wide set of eclectic influences. The result of this philosophy is a nearly four decade career decorated with awards and accolades that are far too long to list. Read on to find out what he’s been working on lately, and just what exactly it is about Anthology that makes it his favorite venue.

CP: What have you been working on this year?

LJ: I do a lot of touring, and I also do a lot of recording. I have a new album coming out in April, which is a retrospective. I’ve gone back and re-recorded a lot of my original tunes that fit a certain kind of mood. It’s more along the romantic lines, although it’s not necessarily love songs; it just has a certain kind of romance to it. I’m also working on a subsequent album that’s going to be a jazz/blues project. I’m getting into that kind of guitar noir mode. But then I’m just getting out there and enjoying playing.  I always like coming back to San Diego. It’s always a great crowd out there, and I love Anthology. It’s such a great venue.

CP: We’re looking forward to having you back! I know you also do a lot of composing for film and TV as well. Have you been doing much of that recently?

LJ: Actually, the most recent project I did is for a video game called Diablo III. Gamers know Diablo has a really iconic game. I think Diablo II came out almost 10 years ago, so this is a much-anticipated game. The music that I did is all very guitar driven— 12 string guitar with orchestra and weird drone-y kind of synth sounds. Video game music isn’t like Super Mario Brothers used to be; it’s more like movie music now. That one is actually supposed to be coming out some time before the end of this year.

I’ve been doing some playing on some other projects like the Muppet Movie. That’s always a fun time, playing the banjo for Kermit. Amnesty International just put out an album called. “Chimes of Freedom” which is a four album set of artists doing Bob Dylan songs. I’m on two tracks, “Like a Rolling Stone” with Seal and Jeff Beck, and then with Evan Rachel Wood, we did a version of a song that Bob Dylan wrote with George Harrison called, “I’ll Have You Anytime”. We did a really cool version of that song with Tom Scott playing saxophone and Patrice Rushen on piano.

You can just tell from the people that I work with that my style encompasses not only the rock end of the spectrum, but also jazz and all points in between. Having worked with Al Stewart for a number of years, I’ve also got that kind of English folk aspect to what I do as well. Playing solo finger style guitar kind of typically puts an artist in the folk camp. But in fact, what I do, because I was in Wings, I bring the rock and roll sensibility to it, so it’s a nice eclectic mix.

CP: Definitely. I’d love to take a listen to that Bob Dylan project— it sounds like a really good summary of all your styles.

LJ: Yes. It’s great. What else is going on? I know there’s other stuff!

Oh yes! I just did a wonderful master class! Tommy Emmanuel, myself, and Richie Sambora did a master class for a charity. That was a really wonderful thing. All of us were sitting there with acoustic guitars just trading licks. Both of those are just fantastic artists, and I get to associate with people like that. It’s wonderful. I got to play with Tommy at festivals quite a few times.

CP: Do you do clinics and classes like that often?

LJ: Not as often as I used to, but I do occasionally do clinics. I don’t specifically do them for charitable causes. Normally I’d do them for Martin guitars because they make my signature model instrument. I’ve got about a ten-year relationship with them. Prior to that I was very involved with Taylor guitars, which is your local brand.

CP: Sure are— they made our menu covers and we’ve got a whole Taylor room in the venue.

LJ: Yes, that was from really early on when they were just making 10 guitars a day. For me, doing concerts makes more sense. The clinics tie in more with the teaching aspect. In order to be able to communicate what I do, I have to really be able to think about it, and the teaching certainly helps. I also do some school outreach. I’m on the advisory board of guitars in the classroom, which you might be familiar with. They provide resources for elementary schools. Sometimes I’ll drop in on a middle school or high school on my own. It’s very satisfying to me.

CP: What is your musical background like? Did you have a lot of formal training?

LJ: I was substantially self-taught, but I also studied music and went to London University. I had a good blend, being self-taught and having some formal music training. It kind of gives me a fairly unique perspective. I think it reinforced my eclectic nature as a player. I never really got stuck on a classical guitar track even though I studied classical guitar. And then I never really got stuck on the jazz track even though I played with the National Youth Jazz Orchestra as a teenager in England. My goal was always to be a studio musician. So all my musical training was really oriented toward that. In the process, I really learned a lot about all different styles of music and different approaches to making music.  Then, when I started writing for film and television, I had a lot to draw from. The first time I sat down with manuscript paper and started writing for an orchestra, I knew what I was doing. It was still an adventure, but I had some experience with that.

In a sense, what my playing tries to do, I try to orchestrate the guitar. If I’m doing “Live and Let Die”, I can bring all of my rock and roll elements into play. If I’m doing a jazz standard, I can have the sound of horns in my head, and be able to communicate that too. There’s a lot of nuance in what I do. At the end of the day, you have to keep an audience entertained. That’s what it all works towards.

CP: Absolutely. What are you most looking forward to about returning to Anthology this week?

LJ: You mean apart from the food?

CP: (Laughs) That really is everyone’s favorite part! Everyone I talk to says that!

LJ: (Laughs) There’s also a great sound system. It’s a wonderful stage to play on. There’s that wonderful big video screen so people can see the fingers close up, and it’s just a very cool vibey place to play. It’s definitely one of my favorites.

CP: Awesome. I think you’ll enjoy some of the new menu items.

LJ: Oh good! I’m looking forward to that!

Special thanks to Mr. Juber for his time and great insight into his musical world! Don’t miss out on this awesome Sunday night show; it’s the perfect way to relax before heading back to work on Monday!

Laurence Juber on Spotify

WHAT: Laurence Juber
WHEN: Sunday, March 18, 2012, 7:00pm
TICKETS: $10-$30 Buy Tickets
MORE INFO: Artist Profile