Kyle Handley of The Memories talks Burger's White Light/White Heat tribute

Mark Craig

The Memories

Photo by Brian Echon

In observance of the 45th anniversary of The Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, Burger Records released a tribute to the album featuring Natural Child, The Memories, Mozes and the Firstborn, Curtis Harding, Mr. Elevator & The Brain Hotel, and Gap Dream. While you can certainly vie for the triple-disc “Super Mega-Mega Deluxe Edition” of VU’s second album, the novelty, cassette-only White Light/White Heat: The Burger Tribute offers up some rockers and poppers’ takes on the six-tracks comprising the record you may or may not want to miss.

Now, don’t you worry. Burger Records ain’t gonna skimp you on numbers like the marathon “Sister Ray” or the tragedy of Waldo Jeffers “The Gift”. They satisfy the original track lengths; albeit Gap Dream forgot to add the vocals to the closing, 17-minute number.

Portland’s The Memories took on the task of “The Gift”, and we were so impressed by it that we took it upon ourselves to bother producer/guitarist/vocalist for The Memories and White Fang, Kyle Handley, with some questions regarding their involvement. Originally, “The Gift” was a short story written by Reed in college and was sided by a take on the instrumental titled “Booker T”, which was a live number the band used to play when Reed was incapable of performing. In genuine fashion, Handley assigns the narrative–originally done by John Cale with that vacant, intellectual Welsh accent–to the left while the instrumental track is panned to the right; wear those headphones, dweebs.

It’s not without slight flaw, of course, but Handley’s recordings aren’t known for their clarity. And we can’t blame Erik Gage for muffing Waldo Jeffers’ name–said as “Jeffries” in the first line–because, according to Handley, he was probs mad high on that Dab. Below, Handley, from a couch in San Francisco, talks how “The Gift” chose them, what Reed and The Velvets mean to him, and how procrastination and 4-track artifacts didn’t prevent them from getting the job done for Burger.


[Photo by Eric Luc]

“We care more about the Eagles, Bad Company, and Cheap Trick than we care about anything remotely indie-rock. We care about Led Zeppelin more than the Velvet Underground.” Erik Gage had said that in an interview we did a little while ago. If that's true, why not make more of an effort to be involved in the 45th anniversary of Led Zeppelin as opposed to the 45th anniversary of White Light/White Heat?

We were asked to be a part of the tribute by the Burger dudes earlier this year and we, of course, were stoked. The Mems can totally rep VU like Fang can rep Zeppelin. We grew pubes to The Velvets, but sometimes you gotta get the Led out.

Would this project have been in the works had it not been for Lou Reed's death, and do you feel like The Memories involvement was affected by his passing?

This project was in the works a good time before Lou Reed’s death. That was just unfortunate/convenient timing.

I can't imagine a lot of people would want to attempt “Sister Ray” but why “The Gift”? That's not exactly a cake walk either.

We didn't choose “The Gift”, “The Gift” chose us. Actually Sean [Bohrman] and Lee [Rickard] chose it for us. It made a lot more sense once we were done with it on our part. I love the jam and the story. It was a lot of fun to do.

You guys nail it for the most part. How was it replicating, or, rather, reinterpreting the instrumental side and the narration of the cover?

We didn’t do it till like the day we were supposed to send it off [laughs]. We did the instrumental–with the exception of the lead part, which I overdubbed–on the second or third take. We'd never really jammed it together, but once the bass was ripping we found the vibe.

Is it Erik Gage doing John Cale? How long did it take for you guys to figure that all out, and how long did it take to record?

Rikky [Retardo, aka Erik Gage] did the vocals with [Unkle] Funkle’s help. I wasn't really there for that part but they seemed to get it done pretty quickly. Rikky was totally goin’ for JC, but he was probably higher on weed concentrates than John. But who knows?

The only flaw with the recording for me is that there is a noticeable clipping as the vocal track enters and exits. Was that a recording artifact you wanted to keep or something that just slipped passed in editing?

My 4-track has a nasty habit of leaving artifacts on the track. Sometimes it’s hard to get rid of them in post. We used what we got so I can't complain.

Do The Memories have a consistent drummer at this point, because I noticed that Unkle Funkle had mentioned he is the featured drummer on “The Gift” while Mikey Hodges, aka Pop Zeus, has been drumming with you guys on tour lately?

We've had four different drummers play for us this year including Chris [Scott] from Guantanamo Baywatch and Boom!–who was the original live drummer The Mems–and Jared [Molyneux] the singer/guitarist of the Shivas. Funkle played on that track because no one was available to do it that day. He did a great job. I'm proud of him. Mikey got into town shortly after, and has been our main man since.

Any other guests featured on this recording outside of the core Memories lineup?

Other than Funkle, it was just me Izak [Arida] and Rikky on that track.

Which covers on the tribute are you digging the most?

I haven't gotten a chance to check out most of the other tracks yet, but Natural Child's “White Light/White Heat” rules and Gap Dreams “Sister Ray” is incredible. I'm excited to hear the other ones though.

How have The Velvets and Lou Reed influenced the music you create?

I first got into The Velvets when Rikky and I started making a regular habit of hotboxing my car in the graveyard by our place, so there'll always be a resin stained spot in my heart for them.

What's your favorite VU record?

My personal favorite VU record is the self-titled album. So chill. So perfect.

What's your favorite Lou Reed record?

When it comes to Lou’s solo records, my favorite is New Sensations from ‘84. Every song is a pop masterpiece. Definitely inspired early Mems.

Favorite VU/Lou Reed songs?

Favorite songs gotta be “I’m Set Free” or maybe “Doin The Things We Want To” or the title track to New Sensations. There's so many its hard to pick.

The Memories are recording a new LP and you are also in White Fang (as well as Puddle of Fuzz) which I heard was in the process of a new LP. Can you fill our readers in on that new-new happening with your bands?

I'm doing this from my friend’s couch in San Francisco. We just got done recording with Sonny Smith [of Sonny & the Sunsets] outside of the city. I'm super stoked on the way they're sounding. White Fang is gonna record a split with the Cosmonauts then going to LA to record at the Burger studio with Bobby Harlow [of The Go]. After that Rikky and I will be on the road for most of the rest of next year touring with both bands.

You can grip Burger's curated spin on WL/WH here.

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