Lou Reed's death is personally sad because he was singularly responsible for me seriously thinking about non-conventional music, and that after two decades of false starts I finally interviewed in person one of my true idols.
Our first conversation took place at a Barnes & Noble Union Square store meet-and-greet over 10 years ago for the then just-released The Raven.
After signing CDs for about 15 minutes, Lou comes off the stage and walks into the rows of seats to greet Laurie Anderson, who had just arrived. They then passionately kiss for a full minute, as the audience gawked, stunned by the public display of affection.
When it came to my turn, I luckily asked the right question, or maybe he was just in a better mood because his significant other had just shown up. "Lou, ever think about mixing The Raven in surround sound?" He turns to his publicist standing behind him and says, "See I told you, surround sound!" I explain him to the magazine, I was then editing covered that business, and I'd like to write an article about his thoughts on the subject.
A week or two later I'm sitting in his 'Sister Ray Enterprises' Soho office on Broadway, and privately beside myself that it's really going to happen ( Hear the interview at http://www.rocksbackpages.com/Library/Article/lou-reed-2003 ). I'm actually going to have the undivided attention of someone who literally changed my life after hearing for the first time the Velvet Underground & Nico album as a teenager.
Not that the interview was anti-climactic; I left his office with the material I sought, although we were somewhat rushed and I received only half of the promised time. There were humorous moments, such as when Lou opens his refrigerator door trying to find something to eat, opens the wrapping of lox and whines to his assistant, "I can't eat this. This lox looks like it's diseased."
When we got down to business, I followed Lenny Kaye's game plan: stick to technology, Lou loves that. Lenny, who was writing a column for me at the time, wasn't wrong. I show him that the magazines we published in addition to mine, with titles like Guitar Player, Keyboard, etc., and he's immediately perusing the product reviews, and asking me if I could vouch about a particular item. I explain that my magazine was separate from that one but I'm sure the editor was a professional.
We finally get down to my list of questions about surround, the problem with CDs and jewel cases, and such curios as Metal Machine Music (he gladly signed my vinyl promo copy, as well as 8-track of the Velvets' Live At Max's Kansas City).
I ask him about Ornette Coleman playing on a track. "No, he was on two tracks," Lou responds, somewhat pissed that I got my facts wrong. Luckily the interview didn't devolve into one of his legendary bash-a-music-journalist sessions, but I was intimidated as hell and glad he didn't kick my ass. And I recovered by suggesting that The Raven's "Who Am I?" was standard-worthy and that I could hear in my head Tony Bennett singing it.
"Bless you," Lou responded. "'Who Am I?' is another 'Perfect Day', another '[Walk on the] Wild Side' for sure, no question."
The last time I saw Lou perform was around early 2008. What was great about that show was that he had John Zorn in the band, and gave the saxophonist so much space for transcendent solos that Reed's catalog veered into the jazz sphere.
Five years earlier, I asked Lou if he ever thought about doing an all-jazz album, which he said he hadn't really considered. Instead, we got the Metallica project as his recording swansong. Oh well.
I hope Lou didn't get to see the cartoonish portrayal of him in the recently released CBGBs movie, which would have made him feel more ill, and that he didn't suffer towards the end. And I hope he gets to jam again with Sterling.