Fleur the Kiwi
On our way out of town (driving back to the Bay Area) the day after the Rockers Against Cancer benefit show at the Key Club in West Hollywood, we stopped to interview Lonny Paul, guitarist and backing vocalist—and all-around multi-talented musician!—for one of our favorite bands, Adler. Many thanks to Lonny for taking the time to talk to us.
DGT&G: How old were you when you first picked up the guitar?
Lonny Paul: I’m one of those rarities where I picked up every instrument but the guitar until later in life. I’ve only been playing guitar a handful of years. I sang in rock bands; I played bass in rock bands. I played drums—that was my first instrument in rock bands. I was a drummer at 15 years old. So, yeah, like I said, I’ve only been playing guitar just a handful of years.
DGT&G: What is your favorite instrument?
LP: I think, singing. Even if I’m not singing, I appreciate vocalists. When I go see a band, I couldn’t give a shit about the guitar player; it’s always about the singer, to me.
DGT&G: So, were you 15 when you first performed in front of an audience?
LP: No, I was in a rock band at 15, playing drums. But we couldn’t quite get it off the ground, and then I went off to college at 17. And just before going to college, I was hanging with my band, I was drinking and driving and destroyed my car. So I had to sell my drum set, to get another car to go off to school. When I was at school, I met a band that needed a bass player. Off the top of my head, I just bluffed—I said, “I play bass.” So they said, “OK, well here’s some songs. Learn then in a few days and we’ll rehearse.” Well, I went back to my dorm, and there happened to be a guy that had a bass and an amplifier that I borrowed to learn the songs and borrow for the audition. And believe it or not, after the very first song, the drummer turns to me and says, “You’re the best bass player I’ve ever played with.” [Laughs] We were playing clubs a month later. So, I’ve been playing bass a month, and I start playing clubs in Houston, Texas, on bass. I played bass for a few years, and then that band broke up and I joined another band. Right after we formed, they decided to move out to California. So I said, “Let’s go,” and I ended up out here.
DGT&G: What was the name of that band?
LP: The first band I was in was called Ashen. The guitar player quit actually to move out here and to go to GIT [Guitar Institute of Technology, now called Musician's Institute]. Well, six months later he was teaching, and still teaches at GIT. His name is Roy Ashen. And then after that was actually kind of a combination of a band called Armageddon and a band called [thinks]—God, it was so long ago. But it was three different bands.
LP: Yeah, merged together. I’m not even sure what the name of the band was. I don’t know if we ever came up with a name. But then we immediately moved out here and were going to start something, and the band broke up. I joined a bunch of bands, because I just wanted to know everybody and everything about the scene. And everybody needed a bass player, and I was, you know, adequate on bass, so I got a lot of gigs. Let me just expand on that a little bit. I know it’s long.
DGT&G: That’s fine. We’re happy with that.
LP: As soon as I moved out here, even back in Houston, even early on in life, I always wanted to write songs. So, I always wrote songs. And when I finally did get out here and there was no cover bands and just all original music, I just really dove into the songwriting, and the more I did it, and the more I wrote songs, the harder it was for me to find a singer to sing my songs, because every singer wanted to do it their own way. So that’s what led me to become a lead singer. I mean, one of the guys I auditioned turned to me and said, “Dude, why don’t you just sing? You know how you want your songs. I’m not doing them justice.” So I said, “Fuck, that’s a great idea.” So, I actually went out a night or two after that and saw Faster Pussycat play the Palladium. And not to say anything bad about Taime, but I looked at him and said, “Man, if that guy can do it, with that voice, I can do it.” [Laughs] And I started a band the very next day. Got my band together and I started recording records and playing the Strip.
DGT&G: What was that band called?
LP: That was a band called Heart Throb Mob.
DGT&G: That’s a good name.
LP: We were terrible. [Laughs] And I was a terrible singer back then. But it got my feet wet and got me used to being in front of an audience singing and what not.
DGT&G: So, of all the bands you’ve been in, do you have a favorite?
LP: That’s hard to answer. I like bits of all the bands that I’ve been in, even the Heart Throb Mob. I liked that we were so over the top. When you go back home, Google Heart Throb; you’ll find us. My hair was down to my ass—glamorous. [Check out Lonny as Lonny Lovett in Heart Throb Mob –Ed.]
Hazelzworld: Were you on Sunset Strip passing out flyers and all that?
LP: I’m sure we were.
Hazelzworld: I have a scrapbook of flyers.
LP: ’92–’93. I’m sure you’ve got our flyers.
DGT&G: Is there more you want to say about that?
LP: No, just that there were bits about every band that I enjoy.
DGT&G: What is your songwriting process?
LP: Well, it varies. I’ve written every way you can possibly imagine. I’ve written on piano. I’ve written on bass. I’ve written on acoustic guitars. I’ve written starting with drum beats. I’ve written—I guess what I’m trying to say is there is no set formula. I’ve even written in rooms with no ideas, just sitting around, just farting around on guitar; when somebody comes up with an idea, we go with it. And there’s just so many different ways.
DGT&G: Do you ever start with lyrics, or do you always start with music?
LP: I always like to start with melodies and a basic music bed, and I try to get through the song. If it sings well melodically, then I’ll go in and fine-tune the riffs. The very last thing that I put down are the lyrics. But, that being said, if I ever think of a great song title, I always write it down, and then I put it in an email of song titles. When I need a subject matter, I always go there and go, hey, that’s a cool song title. That’s very, very important, because then you have a direction for the lyrics.
DGT&G: How does your experience with other instruments (including vocals) affect the way you write music?
LP:My experience in playing other instruments simply allows me to hear the whole song in my head before the song is even finished being written. I’m very fortunate. I suppose it simply makes me more independent as a writer.
DGT&G: What’s Adler’s songwriting process?
LP: Same deal.
DGT&G: Same deal?
LP: Jacob, our singer, lives in Alabama, and since him and I write all the songs, quite often we’ll write songs by ourselves and just go back and forth. We’ve set up a Dropbox account that we drop songs in as we finish them. And then, we either fix them on our own—or, not fix, but make our changes on our own—or we’ll wait to get together and then rewrite the songs that we wrote individually, together. And it always turns out better. In the process of making the record, some of the songs—we had a list of songs that we were going to record. And when Jacob came out here to record the record, we did most of those songs. But a lot of the songs were written the morning of that session. Jacob stayed out here in the guest house, and we would wake up at 6 in the morning. He’d come in here with an idea or I’d wake him up and say, “I’ve got an idea, let’s work on it.” So we’d work on it until about 11 o’ clock, and then we’d go pick up Steven and play it for him, ’cause I have a little recording setup in the other room. I’d play him a rough demo of the song. If he liked it, then we’d play it for Jeff Pilson, and if he liked it, we worked on it the following day, because we usually had the plan to finish up what we had done the day before. So a handful of the songs were written that way, just kind of on the fly.
DGT&G: They came out great.
LP: Thank you.
DGT&G: Who are your influences?
LP: Oh, that’s another hard one, because there is so much input, you know. Early on, I suppose I liked Ozzy and Crüe and Judas Priest and some of those heavier bands, Ronnie James Dio. But believe it or not, the more I—I like radio songs. I like P!nk. I like anything hooky like Bon Jovi. Back in the ’80s that was real fun music. If I hear something melodic on a commercial, that will influence me or inspire me to come into the other room and try to write a song. So, just anything hooky.
DGT&G: This might be really hard to answer because you’re so varied. But how would you describe your sound?
LP: Oh, everybody tries for an original sound. I’m not sure that we have an original sound. It’s just a combination of all the things that we like. And that is a hard one to answer. I would like—I just can’t answer that, because the variety is too great on the record. We didn’t go for a particular sound. I’d love to say that we just went for things that you can dance to, but that’s not true. And things that you can rock to, but that’s not necessarily true either, because we’ve got some ballads on there. It’s hard to answer. I’m sorry.
DGT&G: And do you, yourself—you don’t have a sound of your own. Or do you just go with—
LP: Yeah, I just go with whatever mood I’m in.
DGT&G: Has your sound evolved in the time that you’ve been working with Adler?
LP: I don’t know if it’s necessarily evolved, as I know what works for this project. I’m not gonna write a P!nk song for this project. [Laughs] But I know what everybody’s tastes are. And when we get together, I know—I can kind of predict what input I’m going to have from Steven, from Jacob, from everybody involved.
Coming tomorrow … Part 2 of the interview with Lonny Paul: how Adler the band came into being … the single that was written in 15 minutes … Adler 2013 tour! … Lonny’s Spınal Tap moment … and more!