A Conversation with Greg Gilmore of Mother Love Bone & The Living

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Over the years, the Seattle music scene has gotten a tremendous amount of coverage. While it’s true that in terms of music, Seattle is probably known best for Grunge, Alternative, and Post-Grunge, what if I told you that there was an unknown Punk band, which featured Greg Gilmore (Mother Love Bone) on drums, Duff McKagen (Guns N’ Roses) on guitar as well as vocalist John Conte, and bassist Todd Fleischman? Then, what if I told you this group recorded an album, which for nearly 40 years went unreleased…until now.

Well, that band did exist, and that album exists too, and today the world finally will get to hear it. 1982 by The Living the missing link in the long chain that has long made up the DNA of the legendary Seattle music scene. In 1982, we have a true historical artifact and a legitimate Punk Rock gem that stands toe to toe and chest to chest with anything that came out during that era.

Recently, I sat down with Greg Gilmore to chat about, among other things, meeting Duff McKagen, the long-awaited release of 1982, the formation of The Living, his transition from The Living to Ten Minute Warning, his thoughts on The Living’s place within Seattle’s long and storied musical history, listening to music on vinyl and a whole lot more.

1982 will officially be released Friday, April 16th, and will be available via vinyl and streaming through Stone Gossard’s Loosegroove Records. If you would like to snag yourself a copy, you can grab the release where ever you get your music, but here is as good as any. Enjoy getting to know Greg and learning about this important piece of music history. Cheers.

Andrew:
Hi Greg. Thanks for taking the time. How are you holding up during “COVID times?”

Greg:
I’m doing OK. I work mostly from home anyway, so I’m kind of used to that part of it. I’ve been doing a lot of motorcycle riding. So, there are frustrating parts of this, but it could worse, I think.

Andrew:
So, before we dive into The Living and this cool new record [1982] that’s been unearthed, I wanted to go back a little bit and dig into your origins musically. As far as music goes, how did it all start for you?

Greg:
Well, I started playing the clarinet in fifth grade, and within weeks or months, I was moved to the drum section, which was, in retrospect, not the best move. Honestly, I never learned anything about playing drums in school that I actually applied to what I do. So, I could have been playing another instrument. [Laughs].

Andrew:
So at some point, you hooked up with Duff McKagan, and obviously, you guys were in The Living together. How did you two first meet?

Greg:
The Living was already “a thing,” and they had another guy, Chris, who played drums and guitar. So, Chris and Duff would trade-off between drums and guitar. At some point, Chris left, and Duff decided to play guitar. So, they put an ad in the local entertainment magazine/newspaper called The Rocket. They put up an ad in The Rocket, and I answered and went over to Todd’s [Fleischman] house where they were rehearsing in Todd’s mom’s basement. And that was it. I didn’t really have much of a social life in Seattle yet. Right then, I joined up during the band and instantly met a large group of new friends in the community. It really was the beginning of everything here for me.

Andrew:
Nice. So, you recently unearthed these recordings [1982], right?

Greg:
Well, yeah. Just a few days ago, I got a couple of emails, one of them a little bit distressed, from a couple of friends having come across this idea that I had unearthed the tapes. It sounded like I had been out in the rain forest, in my flannel loincloth, hunting for mushrooms or something. [Laughs]. That wasn’t exactly how it happened, it makes good press, but the process of turning this stuff into a record actually started about eight years ago.

I had the recordings, I had always loved the recordings we made, but we never did anything with them. Well, we crossed paths with a couple of kids from Portland who were doing a sort of boutique record label, and somehow out of that meeting, this idea of making a record out of this old The Living stuff came up. So that’s how it was “unearthed.” That deal fell through, though, and then a couple of years later came another one with another label out of Portland. Ultimately, that didn’t work out either. It’s been a pretty frustrating journey at times, but this one this situation [with Loosegroove Records] is the best of anything that could have happened for this recording. This is where it’s getting more attention and more loving care than any of those other situations could have provided. So in the end, I guess it all worked out, as they say.

Andrew:
You know, it’s a really great record. I feel that it’s indicative of the times, the early 80s Punk scene kind of thing. It’s interesting, as Seattle isn’t always known as much for Punk in that area as, say, L.A. or New York, but it’s as good as anything that came out in that era. So, why didn’t it get released back then? And then obviously, you’ve been trying to put it out for eight years, but up until that point, why did it end up locked away for so long?

Greg:
Well, that’s one of those questions it’s easier to ask than answer. There just wasn’t an outlet for it. I mean, unless you had a record label in your back pocket, then what were you going to do with it? And it just didn’t occur to anybody that we should take this stuff and see if anyone would be interested in it. In retrospect, maybe we could have tried to see if there would be interest, but how could we know that a potentially huge record could happen? So that’s why nothing happened. Then the band broke up. So then what? There’s no band. So what are you going to do? I mean, recordings can be outstanding, but it doesn’t mean you have a record necessarily. It’s sort of like how to today where just because you put a site or a page on the Internet, it doesn’t mean anybody is going to see it, right? It’s really just like that. So, my feeling is if we had released it then, most likely you would not know about it. So I guess that’s a way to explain how records like this would come about.

We just made it. What you do when you have a recording that you think is pretty good? You would think you would try to do something with it, but we didn’t. We can only kind of reverse engineer. Of course, everybody harbored this fantasy that we would be famous and playing arenas and festivals. That said, there is some distance, some unknown territory between making the recording, and now how do we do all of that? For what it’s worth, I guess that’s the explanation for why we just dug it and only played it for our friends.

Andrew:
So with this recording, what do you remember about making it? How did it come together? Who wrote these songs? How did the arrangements come together?

Greg:
Duff wrote them, and we put them all together as a band. So everything was really simple; nothing about the approach was complicated in any way. If there was a song we were going to play when it came time to record, we were really ready, and we threw it down it pretty quick. I think the entire album took an afternoon to record. It was two sessions. The first five songs were one, and the next two songs were done by an intern, and the engineer did the first five. I remember there being no drama or stress or struggle.

Andrew:
It’s interesting to think if there were an alternate universe where The Living hung in there, and this record gets released, you might never have had Ten Minute Warning. You may never have Mother Love Bone or Guns N’ Roses, or at least not in the same way that those bands turned out. It’s like fate had its way. It’s an interesting trajectory. When it comes to Ten Minute Warning, did that form from the ashes of The Living? How did you and Duff end up there?

Greg:
Not so much, actually. After The Living, Duff went and started playing drums with a band called The Fart’s, which was a bit of a Seattle institution for the time. I don’t remember how long it was, maybe a few weeks or months, but they were making some changes, and Duff just wanted to play guitar. Finally, they asked me to come play drums. They decided to change the name to Ten Minute Warning all at the same time. So, it wasn’t formed so much out of The Living; it’s more just another chapter in and of itself.

The Living – 1982 (2021)

Andrew:
With The Living, I think there’s a lot of things that many
people don’t know about this band because it was a long time ago, and it was kind of buried in time. That said, how far did The Living get? I know that you guys opened for D.O.A., which seems like a pretty cool high point. Of course, the record never got a release, though. What kind of trajectory would you say you guys were on before things petered out?

Greg:
Yeah…that might have been the extent of it. The whole thing lasted about five or so months, maybe six months. So there wasn’t time really to develop much. Playing with D.O.A. was a lot of fun, and those guys were sort of idols for us. We spent time with them. They’re great guys. As I said, it’s hard to make sense of it in retrospect. It’s hard to make sense out of that. It was clearly a great band, and we did make a great recording. The other day, a great friend of mine said, “You just decided one day to just not do it anymore? What the hell is that?

Andrew:
I guess it’s the youth aspect? Not knowing any better.

Greg:
Yeah, that’s exactly right. It’s just the easy come, easy go. Let’s move on to the next thing. When asked about it, that’s the only thing that I can really say. The potential…the potential that band had was….well, given what I know now, maybe we should have put in some effort and persevered through whatever struggles might have come up that time, which seemed big enough to throw the towel in and move on.

Andrew:
I mean, you guys definitely had the songs and the personnel; you guys could have been huge. Then again, I guess it all worked out in the end. It’s not as if you guys didn’t go on to make a lot of great music, but it’s just interesting to kind of think back in retrospect.

Greg:
Yeah. Also, part of looking back on it is getting the context of it. A bunch of great kids and great tunes, a great recording. So what’s the problem? The other thing in terms of context is the times. Eventually, it worked for bands like Nirvana, but at that time, that kind of band, that music…it’s not where things were headed, at least, it wasn’t obvious to anybody at the time that one day this music will be performed in arenas. At that time, there was nothing real about that idea for us.

Andrew:
We could look at The Living as a sort of proto band within the Seattle scene. When you look back within the canon of Seattle music and Alternative music in general, having this artifact in hand and having heard it, I think it’s going to be interesting to revisit the history of that scene through this new lense which now includes The Living. If you look back, how do you think it will be viewed within the canon of Punk Rock, Proto-Grunge, Proto-Alternative, whatever you want to call it. How will it be looked back upon now as we move forward with this thing out there in the ether?

Greg:
Yeah…I don’t know. I’m just curious as about that as you are. It has already exceeded my hopes for exposure. It’s already bigger than it otherwise would have been. Up until this time, it was just something that I really liked and always thought was great, but it was kind of a little bit personal. I loved it, but I never really thought that the world had to hear it. I was happy to play it for people from time to time because I felt it was good, but I never got it out because I felt that people have to know that this exists. Given that it has already become bigger than what I had thought or hoped it might be, now I’m just seriously watching and waiting to see what happens. It’s definitely historically interesting for sure.

Andrew:
Oh, yeah, definitely, especially in the context of that scene. Interestingly, people don’t talk about the Seattle music scene around that time much. It’s always what came after that. Even in terms of proto music, like Proto-Grunge and Proto-Alternative, etc., the things that started the sort of pop up in the mid-80s and late-80s. You always hear about that, but this is something entirely different. For me, this changes the context of that scene and that music. There’s more that came before it, you know?

Greg:
Yeah, it’s the part of the history that you don’t usually get to hear about. This is that part of the distant history that usually ends up just being sort of made up by people who do research and write books. Now, here it is. Here’s an artifact, a document. You can read about it all you want, but if you just listen to it, there it is.

Andrew:
I guess for me as an objective listener or a fan of music in general when I thought about it, and maybe you thought about it this way, too, you always hear stories about back in the day there were these bands. They played in these garages or these basements, and they did this and that. With this, it almost feels like we’re actually getting to hear those stories play out as it happened. While you can’t see it, you’re actually getting to hear it. For me, I think that’s the coolest part about this record.

Greg:
Exactly. That’s kind of what I meant. Now that it’s out there, it can officially tell its own story. It does fill in the back story, and it demonstrates the times. I haven’t read any of the books that have been written about those times or seen any movies, but when I hear about them, it just drives me crazy because the stories are so different from what I experienced. So maybe, this record can help put things into a clearer focus. So, my work is done. I handed it off, and we’ll see what happens.

Andrew:
I’ll give you a couple of easy ones now. Are you into vinyl? Cassettes? CDs? Or are you all digital now? Where do you like to shop for music? What are some of your favorite albums?

Greg:
Yeah, man, you know, I there was a good chunk of my teens and twenties where I spent most of my time in record stores. Particularly in Seattle, there is a place in the university district called Sullivan Square that was really a great place to get records. A roommate once commented, “You bring home a new record every day,” which was probably true. [Laughs].

At some point, that kind of dropped off. I took a big traveling trip to Southeast Asia, and when I came back, I ran into Stone [Gossard] and ended up joining Mother Love Bone. It seems that somewhere around that time, my focus was reoriented. I for sure still loved to listen to music, but I was not spending so much time shopping. Fast forward to somewhere, and I don’t remember where or when, I did unload a whole lot of vinyl, to strip things down a bit, which looking back, I’m sad about.

Andrew:
You can always rebuy it!

Greg:
But that’s the part of what makes me so sad. Any time I do go to a record store, I end up saying, “I had this, and I have that, and I had that, but now they’re 20 bucks or more apiece.” I have restarted my collection, and I have a shelf of records and CDs over in the corner here. So now I’ll be sitting on my couch, and it is just too much to get up and flip the record over. [Laughs]. I grew up with vinyl, and that’s how the world of music worked. That said, I have adopted screaming, but I did not grow up with that, so for me, it does not provide the same experience. These days, it’s all convenience and no experience or substance.

As for what I’m listening to these days? I mean, I know I’m listening to stuff all the time, but I almost can’t think of it as what I just listened to when I listen to it because it’s just there. I just don’t have the same commitment to a moment in pulling it out and registering that I’m listening to this now. It’s more like I just played that record, whatever that record is, that I’m playing a lot lately. [Laughs].

Andrew;
Yeah, I know the feeling.

Greg:
This is what people talk about all the time, that connection with the physical aspect of appreciating, procuring, and listening to music. It’s definitely a different experience; it forces you to be connected to the music. I used to like to say that I could list who’s playing on the records and who engineered the records. Now, I can hardly even think of what I’ve been listening to. [Laughs].

Earlier today, I went for a motorcycle ride, and I listened to some Jonas Helberg, a bass player. Sort of Zen House, to give you an idea of what it’s kind of similar to. I listened to another record by Bill Laswell, also a bass player. I don’t listen to a lot of Rock records these days. That said, I did just buy a new motorcycle a few weeks ago, and it was a long way from home. It was hours of riding home, and I did listen to the first four Led Zeppelin records back to back.

Andrew:
You can’t go wrong there.

Greg:
I am a long-time fan of King Crimson, mostly the 70s version of that band. I love Tony Williams, a monster drummer. I am a huge Deep Purple fan, which probably has informed a lot of my playing as a Rock drummer.

Andrew:
Ian Paice. You can never go wrong with him.

Greg:
Yeah, so that’s all bullshit to show and demonstrate how old I am. [Laughs]. I guess even Radiohead is old now, but it doesn’t seem so to me. I am a huge Radiohead fan. I also love random older Jazz records. I’m into more stuff that’s noisier these days. I like some cool Middle Eastern stuff. I guess I like a little bit of everything, but as I said, I don’t really listen too much to Rock these days. Still, it’s important in the right context, but I’ve got to explore other things to get caught up in.

Andrew:
On the subject of vinyl, what formats will 1982 be released on? Where can we get it? When does it officially drop?

Greg;
I believe the plan is to put out a couple of digital single singles which they’ve just released. The record, I believe, is officially being released on April 16th. It’ll be on vinyl and digital. I think that that’s those plans right now. Three colors of vinyl. It is short, I think, the same thing on both sides, so you can double your pleasure. [Laughs].

Andrew:
Nice. So, I’ve got one more for you. Having been a big part of the early Seattle scene and also the later scene which it blossomed into [Grunge]. What’s your opinion of today’s music scene, and how does it stand up? What advice would you have for young artists looking to break into music?

Greg:
Well, obviously, there has been no music for a year plus. I don’t go out that much to see what’s happening locally. I know there’s a great Jazz or Jazz-inspired scene here. So that actually is thriving. Man, as far as what somebody should do…I barely knew at the time that I was doing it. [Laughs]. You know, I really owe so much to the people I’ve worked and played with. I certainly have a capacity or ability for it, but I do not exercise it much. I can only say that if it’s real, just go for it the way that you want to because ultimately, it’ll succeed or it’ll fail. Either way, if you’re doing something that feels right, even if it fails, whatever that means commercially, I guess you still have something, and then you will be proud of it.

If it does fail, maybe at some point, it’s time to move on and do something else, but at least you will never have that empty, nagging feeling of what could have been. If it succeeds, then there’s the potential for everything you had versus if you don’t. Who knows? It not working out could be awful, but even if it works out, that can be awful too. At the end of the day, you’ve got to get out of bed every day and do what you want with your time. If you know it’s not right, you adjust, and you reorient your focus, but as long as you’re always looking for something that is enriching in some way, then you can’t go wrong. That can mean transitioning from being a musician to a programmer or an architect or whatever. It’s all the same, as long as we’re doing something that feels good or is giving you some kind of buzz.

Andrew:
Well said. Greg, I really appreciate you taking the time with me to go over this. The record is awesome. Looking forward to when it finally releases. I’ll be buying it on vinyl for sure.
Take it easy, and thank you for giving us some of your time. Stay safe and be well.

Greg:
Hey, thanks. This was a great conversation. I really enjoyed it.

Andrew:
Absolutely. Have a good night, man. Thank you.

Greg:
You too. Thanks!

Interested in learning more about The Living? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interview

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Since he was a young child growing up on Long Island, NY, Andrew has always loved writing and collecting physical music. Present-day, Andrew is proud to share his love of music with the world through his writing, and the result is nothing short of beautiful: articles and interviews written by a music addict for fellow music addicts. Andrew lives on Long Island and works as a Horticultural Operations Manager by day and runs the Vinyl Writer Music website by night.
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