Larry LaLonde On Doing the Unexpected

Longtime Primus sonic adventurer Larry LaLonde doesn’t play a lot of “normal” music. Here he describes how he got started down the musical road less traveled and what you can do to join him there. —Matt Blackett
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“I started playing when I was 12,” says LaLonde. “My motivation was from seeing bands like Rush and Van Halen. I was really blown away and I wanted to be those guys up on stage. So I started taking guitar lessons, learning songs I had heard before.

“When I began taking lessons from Joe Satriani, things changed dramatically. He was so advanced and innovative, with these crazy scales and giant bizarre chords that I never knew existed. I had never heard anything like what he was doing. Also, watching the most amazing guitarist on the planet three feet away from me in a tiny lesson room gave me the confidence that real people could be even cooler than the guys with the hairspray and leather and fog machines. He really opened my eyes to the idea that the guitar was a piece of wood with strings and pickups that could be used in any way that you were able to dream of, and he gave me many tools to do that. After that, I was only into music that was unique and weird and honest. My musical heroes started to be people who were innovators and risk takers, and my goal became trying to have my own thing and not worry about hitting the big time, since that was a pretty far-fetched idea anyway with the music I was interested in.

“When it comes to soloing, I love Frank Zappa and Jerry Garcia. They both have a way of taking what could be thought of as a traditional guitar solo section and orchestrating on the spot in a way that never becomes noodle-y or sounds like filler. Their solo sections become a different piece of music every time. On more song-oriented guitar parts, I like Adrian Belew and Robert Fripp. The textures and melodies they create—with great voicings, effects, and counter-phrasing—can go from very beautiful to mind bending. For what I would consider extreme or truly alternative note and sound choices, I really like East Bay Ray and Snakefinger.

“To get into this mindset, force yourself to do things that don’t come naturally or are uncomfortable to play. If you play a pattern or a chord that looks or feels like the opposite of what you were about to play, you’ll start to hear and play things that you have probably never heard before. At the same time, your guitar vocabulary and fingering abilities will start to expand, making it easier to translate your vision from your mind to your guitar. Things like fame and success can be dictated by many different factors that are out of your control. If you are able to create sounds and feelings on the guitar that make you happy, you’ll have something you can really use. I think this is the most important aspect of guitar playing.”