Love Tractor's Mike Richmond on Johnny Cash, Ennio Morricone, and Bauhaus
Formed in 1980 by Mike Richmond, Mark Cline, and Armistead Wellford, Love Tractor is one of underground rock's most criminally underrated acts. Along with the B-52's, Pylon, and R.E.M., the band is frequently cited as one of the founders of Athens, Georgia's alternative music scene. Their 1988 magnum opus, Themes from Venus, is set to be reissued on vinyl on August 26 via Propeller Sound Recordings. Two highlights from the album, "I Broke My Saw" and "Venice," are among some of the finest rock songs ever recorded.
To celebrate Cosmic Trattoria’s two-year anniversary, Richmond has shared a playlist of songs by some of his favorite artists. The guitarist was also kind enough to share his thoughts on several cuts, so find his words after the jump.
The remastered and expanded edition of Themes from Venus includes liner notes by Peter Buck (R.E.M.), Bob Nastanovich (Pavement, Silver Jews), and Mitch Easter (Let’s Active), who co-produced and engineered the album. Pre-order the reissue here, and listen to Richmond’s entire Cosmic Trattoria playlist on Spotify and YouTube. — Marcel Sletten
Johnny Cash - "Big River"
Mike Richmond: Johnny’s music combines folk, rockabilly, and country to create an entire musical genre unto itself. JC is the definition of American music to me. My father had a half brother who had been shot up pretty bad in the war and one leg was several inches shorter than the other so he had a special platform shoe made for the short leg. He played in a rockabilly band and at a very young age got me interested in Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, two artists I never get tired of and always learn something new from when I listen to their music. I love the sparse instrumentation of "Big River" and the larger-than-life voice and presence of Johnny Cash.
Bob Dylan - "False Prophet"
I credit Bob for my love of words and the importance of lyrics to a song. Listening to Another Side of Bob Dylan as a pre-teen was a revelation, and it took me a while to figure out what was so different about his songs compared to the usual pop music of the day. "False Prophet" is a song from his latest record Rough and Rowdy Ways, and it shows his songwriting has not diminished one bit with age, who else can you say that about? I listen to everything Bob does, he is essential.
Elvis Presley - "Promised Land"
A song written by Chuck Berry, but Elvis' version is definitive! This song always makes me laugh when he sings, “Workin' on a T-bone steak à la carte”.
Ennio Morricone - "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Main Title)"
It kind of annoys me when people say that Love Tractor is surf music à la the Ventures, etc. I guess I get it, but the real place that twang comes from is the spaghetti western sounds of Morricone and those early Johnny Cash records.
Bauhaus - "Hollow Hills"
Bauhaus was a great band. Daniel Ash is an innovative guitar player, and Peter Murphy is a great singer. They were able to combine rock, punk, and dub into something all their own. Peter Murphy took a lot from Bowie, but of all the Bowie imitators he did the most with it and took that influence to places Bowie never went. "Hollow Hills" is another one of those Bauhaus songs that make you go, “How did they do that?”.
The Pogues - "A Pair of Brown Eyes"
"A Pair of Brown Eyes" is one of the most beautifully written songs I know of. Shane McGowan is a songwriter of the highest order. This is one of the songs that I play when warming up my voice for the studio or stage. I wish I had written this song.
Van der Graaf Generator - "Arrow"
Peter Hammill is the singer of VDGG. What a voice, he can go from a whisper to a blood-curdling scream in seconds flat. Highly influential prog band that influenced punk bands like PiL, the Fall, and David Bowie. "Arrow" is one of many showcases for the power not only of Hammill's voice but his lyrical vision.
Peter Hammill - "Fogwalking"
From the album A Black Box. A Black Box is one of my favorite Peter Hammill solo records. A great experimental album that is really strange and kind of accessible at the same time. "Fogwalking" is brilliant in the way he is able to paint a musical version of what walking in fog might be like.
Iron Maiden - "Hell on Earth"
I’m a fan of heavy music, and no one does it better than Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden combines punk, metal, and prog into something all their own. Their new album Senjutsu is EPIC from start to finish!