Hello lovely people! Today I am here with legendary James Lowe of the Electric Prunes! It was his birthday just couple of days ago. So I would like to dedicate this interview to this occasion and shout out loud: Happy birthday JaMeS!
I presume I don’t need to introduce you the Electric Prunes but maybe I say couple of words for those of you who are not overly familiar with the band. The Electric Prunes were from Los Angeles and were formed in 1965. They are perhaps best known for their hit song “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night)” but of course there is more than that! And let’s hear more of it from James himself.
Hello James! It’s a pleasure to have you for my interview. I hope you will enjoy your time while answering my questions!
Well, I have just had a birthday and I am feeling pretty good so you will enjoy my mercy! ha ha Thanks for having me.
My pleasure! Would you briefly tell us how you got into music, who were your influences? What drove you into the miracle path to form the Electric Prunes?
As a kid I listened to Elvis, Gene Vincent, Little Richard, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Nervous Norvis, Jerry Lee, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bo Diddly, Everly Brothers, Prez Prado. My mom taught me harmony as a kid and how to play the harmonica. This lit the fire for music in me. My dad sang in the shower (a baritone). When I was about 15 a guy taught me some blues on the guitar and piano and that really resonated. I went to Hawaii to surf and a guy played banjo and asked me to play along on a couple of club dates with him on guitar. We were terrible but I got the bug to play along with someone and in front of people. I came back to LA and started the band. Mark, Ken and I wanted to get a record deal so we just rehearsed and didn’t play gigs. We tried not to listen to what was going on so we could find something with a new sound.
Great that you got the bug! Can you name us couple of bands that you played or toured together with? And maybe some interesting moments you experienced with them?
Cream, Steppenwolf, Beach Boys, Doors, Boxtops, Buffalo Springfield, Jefferson Airplane, Left Banke, The Move, The Nice, The Turtles, Tommy James and the Shondells, Tommy Rowe, Soft Machine, Seeds, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Chocolate Watchband, Paul Revere & The Raiders, Lovin’ Spoonful, LOVE … .. We thought it was funny when the Beach Boy’s wives came on the tour for a few days… . all the chica’s disappeared! By today’s standards we were pretty well-behaved… he management told us WE would be paying for anything we broke so we decided NOT to go into debt for TV’s or hotel room makeovers. Naked girls were another thing!
Amazing bands you’ve mentioned there. My first time with the Electric Prunes was the album Stockholm ’67 which I think is one of the best live albums of all the times! When listening to that album, I felt like as I was back in the 60s. How did that live album come about?
Before the concert I was asked if the Swedish Broadcasting Company could record the show in Stockholm. I told them NO, I didn’t want to record something when we had not prepared for it. They apparently took it upon themselves to just go ahead and record it. We NEVER knew this until the 80’s and someone bootlegged the album. It was the last live date of the tour so we just let it go and had some fun. The support band THE NICE (they became Emmerson, Lake, Palmer), played very well that night.
Well, I am glad it was recorded, so we could still hear it to this day. After the band is disbanded which path you have chosen to go?
For two years I produced and engineered records for Todd Rundgren, Nazz, Sparks, Ry Cooder, Ananda Shankar, Van Dyke Parks etc. After that I became involved with writing/producing/and directing TV shows for a few years and then started my own commercial production company. I felt like records were always diluting your efforts and TV seemed like a place to be able to follow an idea from inception to final cut. TV Commercials are short attention span projects that require intense involvement for a short time and then nothing lingering after. I liked that a lot. Working on a record for months can be daunting. When you are done you listen to everyone else talking about how important their role was in the project.
You were reunited with the some of the band members and put couple of more albums. I believe you got plenty attention and was even touring until the sad news of Mark Tulin. Do you want to tell us about the whole feeling and “WaS”?
We reunited in 2000 and I had a recording studio at my ranch. We Put out 4 albums from there, Artifact, California, FEEDBACK, Return To Stockholm (live). We knew there would be a very limited audience for these releases but the songs just kept coming with (bass) Mark Tulin and me. We tried to keep the same sound and ethic in making these CD’s and even added Peter Lewis from Moby Grape on some cuts. We started touring again and found it was the same grind as the 60’s but we were freer since we had no record company telling us what to do.
Mark Tulin decided to go back to the Mother Ship a few years ago and this left me completely deflated and sadder than I have ever been. He was just so alive it seemed impossible he was gone. I thought my inspiration was gone too but I started listening to material we had been preparing for a new CD and it was better than I thought even though it was unfinished in some areas. This collection of material became WaS probably our last album. I felt that if what you WERE is more than what you are, you WaS. This WaS a labor of love for the band to finish. The songs were “in progress” when Mark died so we got to find and finish the mystery in each one. In 2014 we played a couple of gigs in TOKYO, Japan and inspiration came in the form of a song about the trip. This was refreshing since I thought all the songs had been written….. I like the results, few people will hear it so you have to make these things for yourself. We even made a video for TOKYO that is out there somewhere.
But it’s excellent that WaS happened. And here it is, Tokyo !
I think the records you put up back in the day are a must in every 60s lover’s record collection. You and Electric Prunes are very popular and your original records are very high pricey! How do you see the current interest in the 60s music scene and the interest about the Electric Prunes?
We have been surprised to find out anyone knew about this band. The new interest in the obscure has worked in our favor. We love the interest in Europe in this period of music. I think the music of that time is better than many things today. It is innocent and raw in a time when everything is max’ed on new music. Perfect music. I prefer it with a few mistakes and a feeling. The 60’s music has a feeling I don’t find in other music. I think it was because it had so much to do with the cultural revolution. It was the message for a generation and it is hard to not hear it in the music. We were young, it was younger. PS: I can’t afford any of the original releases either! Sundazed is releasing our singles on a Vinyl Gatefold Album soon (2015). I look forward to that.
Oh, good to hear that! Any tour plans for near future, especially in Europe? I would be delighted to see you on stage live!
We have been trying to hook up a last visit to Europe at the end of this summer. Maybe? We would play the UK for sure and would like to visit Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, France if we can? We are a good band live. Come see us if you get a chance. (Electric Prunes 2015: Jay Den, Rocco Guarino, James Lowe, Steve Kara, Walter Garces)
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me JaMeS!
Hope you enjoyed our short but nice interview with James Lowe. Please visit the following pages to see more on him and the Electric Prunes releases.
I also add here couple of YouTube videos so our ears can hear a bit of quality music… Enjoy!
I had too much to dream (last night) ~The Electric Prunes
You never had it better ~The Electric Prunes
Get me to the world on time ~The Electric Prunes with an hilarious opening
**Interview made by Duygu S. – 2015 **