3 Mar 2020

Lou Reed's guitar tech on his NZ Arts Fest show

From RNZ Music, 5:55 pm on 3 March 2020

Lou Reed had the same guitar tech for the last ten years of his life, a man called Stewart Hurwood. He accompanied Reed on tour and took care of his equipment until the musician's death in 2013.

This week Hurwood is in New Zealand performing Lou Reed Drones, a loud, engulfing soundscape created using feedback from seven of Reed's own guitars. 

Stewart Hurwood performs Lou Reed Drones

Stewart Hurwood performs Lou Reed Drones Photo: NZ Festival of The Arts

“Lou believed in magic,” Stewart Hurwood told Elliott Childs.

This comes at the end of a story about how Reed had dragged him around the guitar shops of New York looking for the perfect 12-string guitar because he had recently had a dream of himself playing one.

Hurwood is full of stories about Lou Reed. He spent 10 years working with the “complex” leader of the Velvet Undergound as his guitar technician. He toured as part of Reed’s sound crew and when he was not on the road, was responsible for maintaining and keeping track of his various guitars.

After Reed’s death from liver disease in 2013 his widow Laurie Anderson, told Hurwood to take some of Reed’s instruments and carry on the work they had been doing creating drone music using guitar feedback.

This week, as part of the New Zealand Festival of the Arts, Hurwood performs two sessions of Lou Reed Drones, a loud, engulfing soundscape created using seven of Reed's guitars, all feeding back through different amplifiers.

Hurwood describes the process of performing the piece as an interactive one that changes depending on the room, the stage and the number of people in attendance.

“The drones are set up as seven amplifiers in a semi-circle. And what we’re dealing with is interference patterns so that guitars are going to be playing against each other.

“I can get in the way of certain guitars….so I’m absorbing frequencies.

“Also the frequencies are going to be running through the stage…and now also I’m reaching out into the room and trying to get the room to resonate.

“And then the audience coming in and walking around will also absorb frequencies and change frequencies”.

Sometimes the results can be rather unexpected, creating situations Hurwood would not have thought possible.

“Often I’ll hold the headstock [of a guitar] and move the guitar across the stage, fishing for frequencies.”

“You might hit a really powerful frequency, which I did by accident and the frequency came up through the guitar so hard…..and I let go. And I went to grab the guitar and it stood there balanced, feeding back.

“And I waited for 20 minutes….and it didn’t fall.

“The next performance, the following day I was able to get four to stand.”

Stewart Hurwood will be performing Lou Reed Drones at the Lower Hutt Events Centre on Wednesday March 4th and Thursday March 5th.

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