The RNRG chats with the North Jersey guitarist in between gigs
Julian Lynch will be heard–for the second time on record–as the lead guitarist for New Jersey indie greats Real Estate a little later this year. But first, let’s not forget the incredible new solo album he released back in January.
Entitled Rat’s Spit, it’s Lynch’s fifth proper LP and a firm reminder of his standing as one of the most crucial voices to emerge from the mid-00s indie rock boom. Indeed Real Estate are a better band to have him in its ranks.
RNRG caught up with Lynch–who currently resides in Madison, WI, working on his PhD at the University of Wisconsin and also teaching anthropology from time to time–now that his new album has been out for a hot minute and asked him a bunch of random questions.
Rat’s Spit is out now on the Plancha label.
I love the coda on “Catapulting” and would love to know what caused you to go in that direction towards the end of the first song there…
With the energetic, but brief, first part of that song, I felt it could be cool to have the mood change drastically during the second part. When it comes to rock songs, I’ve always preferred the structure of music like progressive rock to the conventional verse-chorse-verse type form, especially the way the atmosphere of a song by a band like Yes can transform so drastically from section to section. So, I guess that was kind of where my head was at with that one.
Why did you call the album Rat’s Spit?
The short answer is that I was originally going to use the name of this record for a different release that never materialized. It was an EP from several years ago. Anyway, the name for that EP had been a reference to a character from the 1984 movie The Dungeonmaster.
What was it about that film?
I watched that particular movie only in the last 10 years, after a friend recommended it to me. However, I’ve been an avid fan of fantasy and sci-fi since I can remember, so it definitely fit within my own niche.
There seems to be a lot more electric currents going through this album in terms of your guitar playing. What inspired your playing for these new songs?
I’ll think one of the biggest differences between this record and my other LPs is my approach to guitar playing. In the last few years, I’ve gotten back into embracing guitar playing, and returning to the stuff I was learning back when I studied jazz guitar in my late teens and early twenties. I also was drawing influence from various players I look up to, from Adrian Belew’s extended technique and use of a midi pickup, to Robert Fripp’s disciplined playing, to the combination of crazy guitar work and tape experiments found on Steve Vai’s early recordings like Flex-Able.
Vai is one of my absolute favorites and I love hearing hia influence turn up in indie rock. How did you get into him and what keeps him cool in your eyes?
I think a lot of people reject Steve Vai because they tend to associate him with a variety of self-indulgent rock guitar performance that is really unfashionable at the moment. But, first of all, as a guitar player I’m in awe of the way he plays, but furthermore I really appreciate the range of his style as a producer. I’m thinking in particular about the weirdness evident in his work with David Lee Roth (on the album “Skyscraper,” particular the titular song) or his early recordings like Flex-Able, not to mention his history with Frank Zappa.
One thing I always, always wanted to know, as a longtime resident of Ringwood, NJ, was how the indie rock scene in Ridgewood came to be. I mean, I remember going to Ridgewood in the late 00s around the time when you and Ducktails and Real Estate were really taking flight, most likely to have breakfast at the Pancake House or get cupcakes for my then-girlfriend/now-wife at the sorely missed Crumbs on the main drag. But I always looked around that town and that main strip and saw how devoid it was of any kind of youth based center back then. Was there places where kids congregated in town and where you guys could play local shows? Where was the youth movement in North Jersey lol?
I don’t think the community that formed around playing music when I was living there (now more than 15 years ago) really centered on any physical space. There wasn’t a club, for example, that regularly hosted shows. We sort of played wherever we could, including friends’ basements, Elks Lodges, etc. I think the things that nurtured musical performance in the town included things like excellent music education in the public schools, as well as high school faculty that got involved in setting up open mic night events and stuff like that.
With that said, what’s life like out in Madison, WI in comparison? How’s the living out there as someone who grew up in a place like North Jerz?
Madison is a very different place, of course. I love living here. I’ve been here just over ten years now, and at any given point I’ve found that there are exciting things happening in the local music community. One example at the moment is a new(ish) all-ages performing arts space called Communication.
What’s it like teaching this generation of great kids anthropology for you? Also, have you seen your Rate My Professor score? Congrats!
Haha, it looks like that score is based only on one review!! Just one more and it could really get screwed up. Teaching isn’t necessarily a constant part of my day to day or year to year, but it’s something I’ve done from time to time along the course of my PhD work. It can be really difficult but also really rewarding, and as you point out it can sometimes be really inspiring to meet smart and driven people of a younger generation.
How has everything been as the new guy in Real Estate? Personally speaking, I was very excited about the news when it broke. It’s like when Steve Vai joined Whitesnake in ’89, only cooler!
It’s been great! Working with my four bandmates is a real honor, and I feel like I’ve gained a lot from the experience so far as a musician and performer. I’m looking forward to finishing up our new record and releasing it (hopefully kind of soon).