They were never mega stars. But Lucifer's Friend have been recognized in insider circles since their foundation in 1970 as national co-founders of progressive hard rock. Especially their first five albums, released between 1970 and 1976, were appreciated by the heavy faction for their variety. After the fifth record, "Mind Exploding", charismatic singer John Lawton then moved to Uriah Heep to free up space for frontman Mike Starrs. In 1981, however, Lawton returned to his "devilish friends" for one last work, "Mean Machine". Then it was over.
In 1994 there was only a short but unsuccessful reunion for the album "Sumo Grip". 21 years after their dissolution, the now 69-year-old Brit Lawton from Halifax, England, and the two other founding members Peter Hesslein on guitar and Dieter Horns on bass have now reunited. There's also a new record called Awakening. On it you can find ten digitally edited tracks, a cross-section of the albums with Lawton as singer, as well as four new songs. John Lawton, who is now at home in London but still speaks excellent German, is very happy about the new reunion.
eclipsed: How did the reunion of the cult band Lucifer's Friend come about?
John Lawton: That's a curious story: Last year I got an offer from the USA, because it was skateboard- and surfer-types as well as some companies that sell articles for these sports that used titles from our debut album for their videos. This led to an American concert organizer asking if we could imagine meeting again, with as many members of the original line-up as possible. Since Peter Hesslein, Dieter Horns and I had always remained in relatively regular contact, I passed on this request. Peter and Dieter were in the mood. But when I gave the green light, that offer was no longer there. In return, organizer Johannes Lindström from the "Sweden Rock" festival got wind of the matter and booked us on the spot. We agreed. That's how it all started.
eclipsed: And how did the four new songs on "Awakening" come about?
Lawton: Peter, Dieter and I wanted to have some brand-new songs in the program for our festival performance. So Hesslein sent me almost a dozen ideas to listen to. Of those, I picked three I really wanted to sing. Horns also chased some tracks over to me. One of them finally got stuck. When we agreed on the selection, the two guys recorded their instrumental parts in Hamburg and sent them to me. I then added my singing in a studio in London. It was all a lot of fun.
eclipsed: Can you imagine recording a record with completely new tracks?
Lawton: Everyone involved can imagine that. Peter is already busy writing further material. But he suffers from severe arthritis. That's fatal for a guitarist, of course. So far there is no date when he wants to go under the knife - if at all. But otherwise the old fighting spirit has been rekindled.
eclipsed: What is the difference between the cooperation of Lucifer's Friend 40 years ago and today?
Lawton: We've grown older, but that's the natural course of things that even the whippersnappers like us can't escape (laughs). Otherwise, today we are talking more about medicines that we have to insert than about new instruments. Yet our casual sense of togetherness has not changed at all.
eclipsed: The first of the two CDs of "Awakening" is a kind of best-of compilation. How do you feel about the old songs when you hear them today?
Lawton: Honestly, I'm still thrilled about it! Even if we may not have sold so many records in the course of our career, these things are cult and sound timeless. So we don't have to hide from the songs of our main competitors at that time, the Scorpions. Legend remains legend.
eclipsed: Do you see yourself as "German heavy rock pioneers", as you have often been accused of?
Lawton: It has to be mentioned that our discs through the bench were based on the base of heavy rock. But that was it with this genre, too. Our main claim was that each of our albums should do justice to a different musical genre. We really did experiment a lot within the bounds of our possibilities. This ranged from pop to prog and even slight jazz borrowings to modern classical music. It's amazing what we've been working so hard on.
eclipsed: The interest in Lucifer's Friend seems to be rising again. Peu à peu your old records will appear digitally remastered on the renowned "Repertoire" label. What do you think is the origin of this interest?
Lawton: For the older fans, a large portion of nostalgia is guaranteed to play the decisive role. Lucifer's Friend were never super stars, but always a hot insider tip. Which helped us artistically, because it gave us every artistic freedom in composing and recording. The next generation of our followers then, at least I hope so, recognized and learned to appreciate the great variety of our sound from the 70s. Anyway, that's what I'm telling myself (laughs).
eclipsed: What's next for Lucifer's Friend?
Lawton: Probably a CD and a DVD of our performance at the "Sweden Rock" festival will be released in the near future. We recorded the whole thing on 24-multitrack and with five HD cameras. We're evaluating it now. All in all, I can only announce that we have a great desire to work something out together again. Now all we old boys have to do is get a grip on our little health problems. If we succeed, everything will be all right.
Interview: Michael Fox-Gamböck