LYNNE 'ZOOM's' ELO INTO 2001
LYNNE, the sonic architect of ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA,
builds on the group's formidable legacy with the June 12
2001 release of 'Zoom' on Epic
album showcases Lynne's prodigious talent and unbridled
musical passion on 13 songs. Here, in a special interview,
Jeff talks about ELO's first album of new material
in 15 years.
Please note, this interview was conducted before the sad
and untimely death of George Harrison.
What distinguishes 'Zoom'
from your earlier Electric Light Orchestra work?
Jeff: I've learned a lot from producing
and playing with other people, and over the years I've been lucky
enough to work with most of my heroes. I've learned a lot working
with all those guys. I suppose bits of them rubbed off on me and
it opened me up more. And I've seen a lot more of life since the
last album, and I hope 'Zoom' reflects that.
was there unfinished business for ELO?
Jeff: Now that I can see it all from this
distance, I wanted another go at it.
Where does ELO fit in the current musical
Jeff: I don't think my music has ever fitted
into a current musical landscape - I'd like for it to stand out
as something different. I try to give the music as much care and
love as I can.
inspired the title 'Zoom'?
Jeff: It's 15 years since the last ELO
album, and they've gone by pretty quickly. And zoom - here we are
in 2001. I think that's what I meant.
How long did 'Zoom' take to record?
Jeff: I recorded it over a period of about
two and a half years. I completely finished 18 songs.
When you approached recording 'Zoom', how did you go about creating
the ELO sound?
It's like an atmosphere. I try to get old-fashioned sounds. I
suppose the way I work as a songwriter is like, 'producer-songwriter.'
I imagine the sound of what I want before I actually finish writing
it. So I started thinking about the ELO sound and what it would
be like now.
can listeners expect from the new material - are there any standout
tracks for you?
One of my favourites is 'State Of Mind'.
It has a lot of power to it and has cheeky harmonies jumping in
and out. I also like 'Ordinary Dream' because I like the phases
it goes through, and its different textures. And I like the words.
I hadn't written any words for a long time, not for an album or
These lyrics actually came to me much quicker than they used to
in the old days because I was basing them more on things that had
happened to me. Some of the songs are about trying to do as good
as you can get when things don't work out. There are loose ends
you can never tidy up. But it's also about trying to learn to trust
your instincts and do what you feel is right.
One thing that must inspire you creatively but also give you flexibility
is your new home studio.
If you don't feel like recording
one day, you can say, "Don't come in today" to the
engineer. I have two good pals who are great engineers (Marc
Mann and Ryan Ulyate) who live locally, and so it's not like
you've got a studio booked and you've got to do a record.
You just do it when you're inspired. Most days I record for
probably six or eight hours of the day. I've just recently
- a few months ago - been helping to master 53 tracks of the
'Flashback' box set, which was a bit like going to work for
me. I had to wake up really early and get down to the mastering
lab by a certain time, so it was strange getting up and not
walking straight into the studio at home.
proved to me that the environment I've had for 'Zoom' suits me
better. I've got it all wired up so that you can have mics anywhere
in the house. I can get different sounds from different instruments
and I can do strings in the kitchen or in the big room. Sometimes
in the bathroom I've got an acoustic guitar. It's interesting
in that respect. You actually get different sounds than you probably
would in a studio. I prefer natural-sounding wood and the echo
of different rooms.
has your mastery of the new technology and engineering software
You can do lots of tricks with Pro Tools
and have clever things that you couldn't do before. Some of the
things you could have done by hand, but this makes it a million
times quicker, and they've made it 24bit, which is why I succumbed
to it. For example, say you've got an ambient room with a drum in
it and the actual mic picking the drum up is 30 feet away, just
for the effect. The drum is 30 milliseconds late on the machine,
right? So, you could slide that up and make up the distance in air
but still retain all the air in the sound and get it right in time.
It's a nice thing to be able to do, because to me, ambience is one
of the nicest things about making records. Mic distances and all
that are very important.
also features George Harrison and Ringo Starr as special
guests. What were they like to work with this time around?
I've worked with them a lot, especially
George - we are good friends. It was great to have George
play some slide guitar for me (Harrison plays slide on 'Zoom's'
'A Long Time Gone' and 'All She Wanted') because he's my
favourite guitar player. He's tuneful and melodic and he
can really hold a note just perfectly with total control
in his vibrato.
Ringo is a fantastic drummer (Starr appears on Zoom's 'Easy Money'
and 'Moment In Paradise'). I've always loved his drumming and in
fact when he said, "I wouldn't mind playing on one of your
tracks", I said, "Well, how about tomorrow?" And
he played live in my living room, which was great fun because we
actually played it all live together. It was myself and Marc Mann
playing bass and guitar and Ringo playing the drums in his own inimitable
style. And he did a really great job of it.
get a very distinct quality to your acoustic production and harmonies.
I get a kind of grainer sound on the acoustic instruments. The
sound flows and is full, but it's got an edge to it. The harmonies
are quite simple. It's just the way I layer them, by weaving them
in and out of each other. One will start and the other will end
just as another begins. I start out with all the parts and I don't
know how it's going to end up until I'm actually done. I'll just
have this idea for the first part. I'll probably double-track
it, then I'll do the next part. And while I'm doing the next part,
I'm always thinking about what the part after that is going to
be as I'm doing it. Sometimes I'll actually be stressing the engineer
out because I'll already be on the next part practicing it, even
though I haven't finished the second part yet. But that's the
way I do it.
did you integrate the strings on 'Zoom' compared to previous ELO
The general body of work of ELO
actually goes all the way back from a couple of cellos and
a violin to a 40-piece orchestra and a 30-piece choir at its
biggest and most expansive. The strings on 'Zoom' are not
big, they are just little string quartets and little violin
sections. It's a more guitar-orientated album.
you have any fond memories of the huge ELO live spectacle of the
On the 'Out Of The Blue' Tour, some
nights I would even sneak into the audience to look at the
closing of the spaceship. It was pretty spectacular. The racket
was enormous; there was smoke coming out of it and lasers
everywhere. It wasn't my idea to be honest. To me it was a
bit over the top, but lots of fun. The first few tours were
exciting, because it was all new and it was America. I had
never ever dreamed of coming to America. But the really long
tours would eventually become a bit of a drag, because I really
wanted to be in the studio, making records.
Orbison has been a particular musical hero for you over many years.
When I was only about 13, I was sitting
by the radio and me mum and me auntie were there. And 'Only
The Lonely' came on and it was fantastic, and I loved it.
It was the first time I'd heard it. And I went, "Oh,
it's unbelievable. It's fantastic! And me mum and me auntie,
they go, "Oh, horrible. Sexy." And I didn't even
know about it, that there was sex involved! Later, when I
became a musician myself, I realised that the quality of his
voice was so amazing. It's just a remarkable thing.
I co-wrote 'You Got It' with him, we recorded it in Mike Campbell's
studio. When we came to do the lead vocal, he stood at the
mic and during the run-though just kind of mumbled the melody.
I thought that's how loud he's going to sing but when he actually
starts singing it was like a million times louder. So we had
to readjust the mic for this enormous voice. And we finally
got it after two or three takes of 'You Got It'. And it was
one of the most exciting things I've ever recorded.
do you choose to call Los Angeles home?
After spending more and more time here,
I just got used to the weather. It's just nice to see blue skies
every day. I am quite happy here at the moment. I remodelled a
house and rebuilt it all wired for the studio and brought it to
a professional level. That's the great thing about having a house
to record in -you get sounds you probably wouldn't get in the
finally, is there ever going to be a third Traveling Wilburys
When I see George occasionally,
we always end up talking about it. And then we go our separate
ways again and then we see each other again and do the same
thing. So, who knows, one day it might happen.