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Venice interview 

Submitted by Arie van der Graaf on 2016-03-30
Michael Lennon talks about the history of the band Venice, the bands upcoming cover album and tour...
Who are your main musical influences?

Steely Dan, CSNY, Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Wonder.

Which song by another artist would you have loved to have written yourself?

Your Song – Elton John

Pick three albums that you would take to a deserted island?

Blue Nile "Hats", Steely Dan "Count Down To Ecstasy",CSN - First album.

Can you describe the importance of music in your life?

Its been my entire life for most of my life. Our father and his brothers sang together in the 40's and 50's. Our cousins sang together on TV for over 20 years in the 50's, 60's and 70's…and now us.

What's the strongest memory of your career so far?

Playing in front of 20,000 people at Pink Pop and Bospop.

Which goals in life did you achieve and which ones do you have left?

I've achieved every goal I set for myself when I was a senior in high school….but I still need to play at the Fabulous Forum venue in Los Angeles. My only unfulfilled dream or goal.

Be happily married with children – CHECK

Play music for a living – CHECK

Have my own home - CHECK

If you could start over, would you have approached your carreer differently?

Probably not. So much of what I've learned and who I am today has come from all the lessons and misfortunes I've had over the years. Maybe I would have started writing at a younger age?

Do you have an important topic which you need to share through your music?

Any topic that is occupying my brain when we're in writing mode is what I feel the need to express or share in my songs. Love, Heartache, racism, losing loved ones.

What is your perspective about the musical climate today?

Its definitely in a whirlwind of changes….streaming, digital downloads, CD's phasing out but vinyl coming back. No recording or tour budgets unless you're already a mega star. It's a scary time of change but in the end I know change is good and hope we can find a way to survive the change…..and make it possible for artists to keep creating art….and be able to make a living from it.

When and how was Venice born as a band?

I asked my cousin Kipp to join my existing band in 1977. Shortly after we named it Venice and later added my brother Mark (at 14 years old), then Kipp's brother Pat, in 1980..when Pat agreed to join our band if we would play at his wedding.

The music of Venice is sometimes compared with The Eagles or Simon & Garfunkel, what do you think about that?

Its an honor to be in such company. They are huge influences on all of us and 2 of the greats in music history.

You guys have been performing with the remaining Eagles members lately which is now known as probably the last work together as a band for them, how do you describe that performance together with all those stars, giving an hommage to Frey?

It was an amazing honor to be asked to not only perform at the Frey tribute but then to be asked to be the house band…and for me personally to be asked to be the musical director of such a show with the likes of Bonnie Raitt sharing her talents, etc. Venice turned a lot of heads that night. So many people had never heard of us and wondered where the hell we came from….right in their own backyard.

Can you tell us something about the different characters in the band, Is anyone supersticious, or having unusual habits etcetera..?

- Pat love woodworking, reading, competitive ocean swimming, building old style surfboards, raising turtles and loves his cats and dogs.

- Marky loves making art, dancing, traveling, eating out, He loves anyplace with water near by

- Kipp loves sports, his kids, his animals, and drawing. He also loves to read.

- Michael (Me)- I love building furniture, All Apple products, technology, doing construction on my house, sports, watching my kids play or perform anything, my new puppy, Sachi, recording, playing guitar, mixing records, writing songs, playing live, being outdoors and near water with my family…mexican food!

How special is it being in a band with 4 familly members?

I can't imagine any other way. The 4 of us are 4 completely different personalities but our upbringing and the fact that we are all family instills a constant in us that allows us to tolerate and embrace each others differences while keeping our own opinions represented. Its not so easy with the musicians that are NOT family…although they have become our extending family….they don't share that Lennon blood that allows us to work things out, not panic, and maintain a sense of humor about life and our crazy carreer as musicians and artists.

As a familly band is it not hard to sometimes have some space to breath or is there no need to?

There are times when we wear on each other….but its few and far between. We respect that each of us has our own take on things….our own preferences….but we hear each other and try to listen. Listening and respecting someone else's feelings is a huge part of our success as a family band.

"The Familly Tree" and "Father time" are examples of very personal songs you guys wrote. Which other song is very special to you regarding lyrics, and why?

Most of the songs we write are special to us lyrically. Of course some are more serious or closer to us because of what they are about.

Here are a few:

People Laugh – We wrote when some comedians were joking about aids when it first hit America. Our oldest cousin died of aids and we needed to write about how people could find humor in such a thing. Of course its no joke anymore.

Ball & Chain – We wrote about racism and being outraged after seeing a guy on TV, speaking about African Americans like they were animals. Sick stuff that hit a nerve with us.

All Or Nothing – I wrote about wondering if I could give it all to music and still be a good dad, husband, son. So many successful artists are unhappy in family life or day to day life. Its something I always try to balance. Maybe bit time fame is unachievable without sacrificing family. Not worth losing for me. Family is forever.

Can you tell us about the recording process Venice generally feels comfortable with?

Every album is a little different so I'll focus on this album. The 4 Lennons had multiple meetings with acoustic guitars. We each brought a list of songs that we've built over the years. We listened to all the songs and artists that we agreed on, starting playing around with arrangement ideas and then worked out most of the vocal ideas on a single microphone and recording at Mark's house.

Then we headed into the studio where we would put down a click track, if needed, lay down the rough lead vocal at the same time as the rough guitar. Then if it was a guitar vocal only track, we'd resing the lead vocal, sing the harmonies, one track at a time…and then I would replace the rough guitar with new guitars, keys, percussion or any other instrument that was needed.

On the tracks with full band, we cut the tracks with the full band and rough lead vocals, then the drums and bass are captured and we'd replace the guitars and all the lead and backing vocals. We intentionally did NOT double track the backing vocals. We wanted to maintain a rawer, more live approach to singing. I think there is a real separation of the singers on this album that many of the previous albums is missing…due to doubling, tripling, etc. There is no hiding on this album. We wanted to keep it honest and real sounding.

Why did you decide to release an album full of covers instead of an album with new self written songs?

We had just released a new album of originals last year and we had been talking about a cover album for years. We thought now would be a good time to do something different.

Can you describe if it is difficult creating an album containing coversongs and still being able to blend in the typical Venice sound to the songs which were not written originally for Venice?

Funny you should ask. Every person we invited to hear the new album during its making, would ask if the song was a new Venice song….and we would say "No, that's a Stevie Wonder Song"….or…."No, that's a Steely Dan song". Apparently, we've succeeded in making this cover album our own. Usually its just putting harmony vocals over songs that never had harmony before….like Keane's "Everybody's Changing" or Dan Fogelberg's "Looking for a Lady". But as the engineer, arranger and producer of most of the Venice albums, I'm sure my approach to recording and playing guitar adds a familiar and recognizable element to the recordings that make it sound like Venice as well.

After all, these songs were chosen by Venice and are songs that influenced us over the years…even up to recently…so we have a piece of them already inside of us.

What is your favoutite song on the album and why?

Home at Last is one of my favorites…mainly because I've always loved the song but mostly because I was so worried about how to make it our own and I stumbled upon the arpeggio guitar part just before we recorded the track with the full band. I love that it starts with the guitar and nobody knows what it is until the singing starts. I also love that we did the horn parts with vocals…which really made it our own.

What are the touring plans to support the album?

Touring Holland in April, then home for shows, supporting the US release.

We received offers to return to Denmark, Germany and Paris again but there was no time to fit those in due to our tour commitments back in the states. We hope to return to Europe in fall and visit the outside territories at that time.

How exited are you to finally bring these coversongs to the stage?

We are excited to finally share some of our influences with our fans. They always ask who are influences are but they usually assume the obvious, "eagles, csn, America, little river band"….Yes, they are big influences on us, but none of those obvious vocal groups are even on this album…and that's because we wanted to show the fans the influences that they might not expect or realize had an effect on our singing, writing and playing.

- Earth Wind and Fire

- Billy Joel

- Stevie Wonder

- Keane

Best personal tour memory so far?

Touring Holland with my older brother, my son, my daughter, my wife. When the 3 other Lennons were off touring the world with Roger Waters The Wall, I put together a small tour that included the Venice drummer and bassist….but also included, my daughter, Avalon, Kipp's son, Charlie Vaughn and my older brother Tom Lennon, who is the reason I'm a musician. We did some Venice songs but also songs from Tom's and Charlie's CD's I had just produced. Seeing Europe with new family members on the bus…especially my own kids was amazing….and people loved it. I guess it means so much because it was something completely new and different and my brother and family were there to share it with me.

What's the best and worst being on tour?

The best is playing a live show to 1000's of people half way across the world who want to see you and hear your music. Amazing.

The worst is I guess not being home with my wife and kids….and moving luggage from place to place. I like being grounded.

Can you tell how it feels being on stage?

Its funny because its such a small part of the tour that we are actually on stage. Most of the tour is sleeping, eating, driving, sound-checking and the meet and greet after the shows. Only 2 hours of the 24 are doing what we're actually there to do…play live music for people that enjoy being part of it. The feeling of someone that lives half way across the world singing your song back to you is probably the most amazing part. Hearing a crowd sing the Family Tree at a concert in Holland is life changing. And knowing its helped so many people get through tough times is pretty powerful.

Is there anything special preparing you do just before hitting the stage?

Well the majority of us do vocal warm ups on our own….but minutes before we go on stage, we gather around and put our hands in the middle and usually a local promoter or crew guy joins us and he has to start singing any song…but it has to be a song we all know. Its amazing that we continue to find new songs after all these years. That song, whatever it is, and whomever starts it, is our tradition before every show.

Funniest thing which ever happened to you and the band while being on tour/during a show?

One time in Groningen at a show, the lighting person hit the fog machine to fill the stage with more smoke to make the lights look better during one fo the songs. Unfortunately, the switch on the smoke machine got stuck and the smoke just kept coming out. Before long the entire stage was fogged and we couldn't even see each other. It still is one of the funniest moments we've ever experienced. It was especially funny because we don't mind some fog machines to help make the lights more dramatic…but Venice is not a hair band from the 80's that use these foggers to the max…and often look silly when its over done. Well that night, we were every band we ever made fun of….and the audience laughed as well.

Is there any question that still needs to be asked Venice according to you but hasn't been asked yet?

How can a band this talented, and singers this good, not be world famous, already?

And what is the answer?

Short answer: I don't know!

Long answer: Timing, luck, and we don't hate each other.



Thanks for the interview, good luck with the new album and tour!

Thank YOU for your interest. Hope you can visit a show!


Michael Lennon - Venice