Richard Lloyd: Manic digression

Television’s other guitarist revels in his Hendrix experience

After spending just a few minutes on the phone with former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd, things start to get weird. He responds to questions about his music with allegories of heaven, hell, Sufism and man’s need to face his demons. When asked if songs like “Amnesia” or the title track from his spiritually aligned October 2007 release The Radiant Monkey (Parasol Records) are autobiographical, he responds like it’s a no-brainer.

“Of course they are,” he says. “Anything else would be plagiarism.”

Lloyd talks more like a philosophy professor than someone who changed the course of evolution for American punk rock in the mid-’70s. As the raucous second guitar player to Television’s austere frontman, Tom Verlaine, Lloyd’s lesser-known solo career is made all the more interesting by his personal eccentricities.

“I am what some might call a quixotic man,” he offers. The matter-of-fact self-assessment sinks in when he mentions that he knew and learned “second-hand” how to play guitar from Jimi Hendrix. Although his stories sound like fantastic schizophrenic constructs, he recalls numerous details and sounds like he’s telling the truth.

Delusional or not, it doesn’t sound that far-fetched considering his past accomplishments. Television is etched in history as a band that skewed punk rock’s primitivism into an art-driven sound that influenced countless others. The depth and complexity of the group’s two-guitar interplay transcended the bottom-heavy dirge of the blues while merging the energy and grit of punk with the inventiveness of improv jazz. But after Lloyd talks about Hendrix, quintessential Television songs such as “Venus,” “Friction” and “See No Evil” ring with a different tone. The breezy, melancholy pace and damaged, psychedelic sensibilities share similarities you won’t hear if you don’t know to listen for them.

Lloyd claims he came to know Hendrix through childhood friend Velvert Turner. “We became friends because I was the only one who believed Velvert when he said that he knew Jimi Hendrix,” Lloyd says.

Turner was reportedly receiving guitar lessons from Hendrix. After receiving permission, of course, Turner – who released his one and only self-titled album in 1972 – taught Lloyd the songs and theories that were passed down to him from the acid-rock god. Lloyd’s forthcoming CD, The Jamie Neverts Story, is so named because that was the code name he and Turner used for Hendrix whenever they were going to go hang out with him but didn’t want to make it publicly known.

For his current tour, Lloyd fronts a trio that features former Television drummer Bill Ficca and bass player Keith Hartel of Hoboken, N.J.’s True Love. Lloyd says he wanted to put together a three-piece because that’s the way Hendrix’s songs were meant to be played. The show features two hours of mostly Hendrix covers, but he won’t reveal which ones.

He’s throwing in some original songs as well, and if the mood is right he may play some Television covers, but again, he won’t divulge song titles. “A lot of Television’s songs are like jigsaw puzzle pieces, meaning that the two guitars work together,” he explains. “I wouldn’t want to try them with just one guitar, and I don’t think Tom would either. But there are a few songs where I play lead, and if I can remember the lyrics, we’ll do ‘em ... Maybe.”

His top priority is playing Hendrix’s songs.

When asked what more he could possibly have to offer through his interpretation that Hendrix’s songs don’t already convey, Lloyd draws on his iconic experiences with Jimi. “It’s a long story that’s talked about more in the CD’s liner notes, but to my knowledge, I’m the only person whom Jimi ever punched in the face three times, and then cried in his hands while apologizing to me,” Lloyd explains. “So I have a pretty unique perspective on his emotional range.”

To hear a song from Richard Lloyd’s recent release, click here.