LONDON (Reuters) - It was dismissed as “career suicide” and a joke, and some fans returned the record thinking it was faulty, but rocker Lou Reed is re-releasing a digitally remastered version of his 1975 album “Metal Machine Music.”
And, despite the absence of melody and vocals and the unending presence of feedback, the 68-year-old rocker best known for his work with the influential band The Velvet Underground is touring Europe playing music inspired by the record with the Metal Machine Trio.
When collaborator Ulrich Krieger approached Reed and proposed the idea of analyzing the sounds of the album and performing them on stage, at first the singer was dubious.
“I said there’s no way. That’s absolutely impossible,” Reed told Reuters in an interview in London ahead of a performance at the Royal Festival Hall in London and before he moves on to Paris, Brussels, Copenhagen and Oslo (www.loureed.com).
”And he said something like, ‘Let me try to do five or 10 minutes, and when I‘m in New York, I’ll drop this off and you tell me what you think.’
“And I was so stunned by the ten minutes ... I wouldn’t have thought anybody can do this but of course I‘m really, really wrong. You can do this.”
He and the other two members of the trio said they found improvising on stage a liberating experience rather than one to fret over.
“That’s the whole point. That is the whole point,” said Reed.
Krieger, an avant-garde composer on saxophone and live electronics, added that, despite being described as “industrial noise” and one of the worst albums of all time on its release 35 years ago, Metal Machine Music was not an isolated case.
“I really think that there’s a whole generation of audiences who are used to listening to music without rhythm, without harmonies, without vocals,” he explained.
“There’s a big scene of instrumental electronica out there ... So I think there’s a whole generation who grew up not necessarily needing chord changes or vocals or even drums in their music.”
While alienating some critics, the album has been credited by others as helping to inspire punk, grunge and trance music.
Reed said the music could also be seen as a swipe at the record industry -- many regarded it as Reed’s attempt to break his contract with RCA Records.
“Do yourself a favor,” Reed said. “If you want something that’s no bullshit, here it is. Right in front of you. No joke. No record company. No nothing.”
Additional reporting and writing by Mike Collett-White, editing by