Home > Around Town > Greg Locke: Easin’ Down the Road
Greg Locke: Easin’ Down the Road
By Sean Smith
Fort Wayne Reader
After working in record stores for nearly a decade, Gregory William Locke III began a career as a music writer, first, as a critic of albums in 2003 and then, three short years later, as a weekly columnist with the ever acerbic, “Ease Down the Road.” But, all good things must come to an end and Locke will soon be heading west and planting roots in Seattle. My friend, former roommate, fellow music journalist and Stage Banter co-host was kind enough to share his thoughts on the recent past and our mutual love for the artistic side of life.
Fort Wayne Reader: Tell me about “Ease Down the Road.” When did you realize you wanted to use that name for the column and how has the column evolved?
Greg Locke: My column was supposed to be similar to a music news column that J.J. Fabini used to write. I started writing it that way, but maybe with more opinion and history thrown in. Eventually, I started mixing in topical columns, lists, interviews, stories, rants and creative writing stuff. The news columns, by far, saw the least reader response right off the bat. At some point, I decided to just let it go and write what I thought mattered at the time. The name “Ease Down the Road” landed the top seed on a long list of names - mostly semi-obscure music references - having to do with space, variety, growth ... stuff like that. I'm no hippie, that time has passed, but I do try to be as open to everything as I can be, so as not to ever fall into repetition. I've seen so many great friends fall in love with a sound or style and decide "that's it," and never go further. That's fine, but I don't think someone who wants to be a columnist or critic has any right to do that. I wanted both the name and the column to be about growth. I'll listen to the new Madonna record - there's something to learn from albums like that. I like to think that “Ease…” made fun of everything equally, which initially made a lot of people mad at me. I figured making fun of everything just a little bit was better than making fun of just the things I thought were bad.
FWR: And what about Nuvo? Will you continue to write for them?
GL: I started writing for Nuvo just over a year ago. They treat me with a whole lot of love. Their initial music editor, Leslie Benson, and I got along really well. She was great. Then the current guy, Scott Shoger, took over and I'm just in awe of his personality and writing. He's a real writer - the kind that makes me look like a fanboy. We've agreed that I'll still write for Nuvo just as much as I want, which warms my heart.
FWR: What impact do you think Stage Banter had on the local music community, and you, when looking back?
GL: I've overheard whispers that Stage Banter, the message board, is a club of elitist twats. False. There is a level of heightened sophistication there compared to most message boards, but that's what makes it special. Most folks on the board are writers, readers, thinkers and - most of all - scholarly in their thinking when it comes to music. That's why we all get along. It's my favorite network of friends ever; I've gotten to know so many people and we've had so many great nights out at shows together. There's about as much love and respect on that board as anything I've seen on the web. I hope people continue to join the board; it's a community of people who like to share, think and discuss.
FWR: What were some of the first local shows you went to in Fort Wayne?
GL: Soon after I turned 21 and returned to Fort Wayne a little band named Go Dog Go threw me in a headlock. They were playing some cool originals and some Old 97's tunes. I'd heard that they played the 97's 'Murder (Or a Heart Attack),' so I felt it my duty to go and see if I needed to boo and throw eggs or not. They nailed it and I quickly became a fan. The Legendary Trainhoppers were the first local band I officially flipped for and Vandolah was the first local band to catch me peeking in their garage window during practices.
FWR: Which local bands are you going to miss most?
GL: I will forever and ever miss three area musicians in particular: Vandolah's Mark Hutchins, Thunderhawk's Josh Hall and Lee Miles. I don't expect anyone in Seattle to be as good as any of those guys. That they accept this awkward guy in a baseball hat as both a fan and a friend means a lot to me. I'd do anything for the music those guys make.
FWR: Thunderhawk seems to have become especially important to you.
GL: My best memories of 2008 so far all relate to Thunderhawk and Lee Miles. I've known Lee here and there for a couple of years, but Josh and I really only met in person a few months ago. While going through a stack of promos I'd been sitting on I finally came to GRAVITY WINS! I put it in and literally didn't take it out for weeks. Being the excitable boy that I am, I sought out Josh and started sending him a dozen e-mails a day. He's a very kind dude, so he would always reply with equal excitement. We bonded over Pavement and Thunderhawk and many other things. I can't stress how generous of a person Josh is and how talented I think he is. I hope Fort Wayne will continue to treat him at least half as well he treats all of us. For many reasons, GRAVITY WINS! is one of my favorite albums ever; there's a lot of personal history there for me now.
FWR: What have been some of your favorite local albums over the years?
GL: My favorite local album of all-time is Lee Miles' Heathen Blux, which is also one of my all-around favorite albums of all-time. When I first heard the songs that became that album I was ready to spend my life savings on forming a record label and putting it out as my first release. Lee let me be involved in parts of the process, which was a dream come true. I like a lot of local albums. Sankofa, Legendary Trainhoppers, you know - all that stuff. Vandolah is my most-listened-to band from Fort Wayne. Take their 12 best songs, put it on one disc and have Sub Pop release it and you'll have the album of the decade - here, there or anywhere. Mark is talented in so many ways. Aside from Matt Kelley, I've never known one person who is so talented at so many things.
FWR: So tell me about this move to Seattle.
GL: I've always wanted to live in Hoboken, New Jersey and still hope to someday make that a reality. I'm taking some clothes, a stick of deodorant, my computer, some books and my movie and music collections to Seattle - nothing else. Moving 32 hours away is a big deal, we're realizing. We almost decided to move to Philadelphia, which is 10 or less hours away; much more work goes into moving to the places farthest away from where you're at in your own country - we're going all out, for sure. We plan to live in either downtown Seattle or one of the classic Seattle hoods - Queen Anne, Fremont, Capitol Hill or Belltown. I have enough money saved to not work for a few months, so I hope to spend my time wandering, sleeping and writing for myself for the first time in over a year. The most private fact about me is that I wrote a book about 18 months ago called Kicking the Rub; I haven't written anything for myself since aside from a poem or short story here and there. I love to write and can't wait to have some new places, people and challenges to consider. We're excited about Portland and Vancouver and the ocean and the Oregon coast and Mount Rainer and the Ichiro Suzuki and Olympia and the Seattle Seahawks and so much more. I have a whole lot of concerts already planned, have already been obsessing over Sonic Boom and might buy Seahawks season tickets. And don't worry old friends; I'll always be a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs.
FWR: What do you hope to accomplish in Seattle?
GL: I hope to turn 20 in Seattle. I've always felt a decade or so behind where I'd like to be as a person and I'm too comfortable in Fort Wayne right now to challenge myself as much as I'd like. This is a great city, but I'm happiest as an underdog loser, so I hope and pray that Seattle will bury me - challenge me like nothing has before. I also hope to buy a lot of records, see a lot of bands, live without a car and find someone who will let me write for them. Other than that, I hope there's a movie theatre that needs an employee, because I doubt anyone plans to pay for my rants. I like to think I'm fairly easy to please: as long as I have a steady flow of new music, my girlfriend and am doing something creative, I'm completely fine. If I go a day without writing or painting or doing something creative/productive, I wake up feeling lazy, like I weigh 400 pounds.
FWR: Are you excited to be living in a city that inspires more eco-friendly living?
GL: Yes, we are. That's something I'm looking forward to, but even more so, my girlfriend is. She's very eco-friendly and would be even if she was the only person left on earth with that mentality. We clean with vinegar, use our own cloth bags at the grocery and recycle everything that comes through our doors. I won't miss having a car at all. I also won't miss watching people throw McDonald's bags out their car window.
FWR: I know that there's an adventurous spirit behind the move, but what do you think this city is going to need to do to keep good people like you around?
GL: The move was brought on by many circumstances, none that have to do with us not liking our lives in Fort Wayne. It's just a challenge and a change. I like Fort Wayne at this moment more than I ever have. I used to think it had little to offer me, but looking at my job and friends and the places I go and the things I do, I've realized that that couldn't be further from the truth. I wouldn't blame anyone for staying here forever. In the spirit of full disclosure, I should mention that my girlfriend just finished her masters and wants to dive into a place with more diverse opportunities in her field. Anyone who knows her knows that she's worth following anywhere; she's amazing - the best person on the planet. Better than Paul Westerberg.
FWR: What is Carly's focus going to be?
GL: Carly is finishing up an internship at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art; it's the final step in her Masters of Library Science (MLS) program with Indiana University. She's a longtime book nerd. More so, she's the queen of all research. She studies everything compulsively and is really good at finding answers in ways most folks don't know exist - which is key for a librarian, even in this age of everyone foolishly thinking all the answers are on some website called Wikipedia. She has a great - and very extensive - resume and Seattle is one of the best places in the world for librarians.
FWR: Are you going to miss not being at Harrison Square on opening day?
GL: I will abso-******-lutely hate missing the completion of Harrison Square. I'm a major fan of both baseball and downtown Fort Wayne. I've lived downtown for a long time and really found out how much I love this city by being in the middle of it - in the only part of town that that literally breathes and burns with life. Maybe I'll find a place in Seattle that I love more, but as it stands, downtown Fort Wayne is where it's at. And don't get me started on baseball; there is no other sport - especially if you like indie rock and cheap beer.
FWR: What else about the city are you going to miss?
GL: It sounds ridiculous, but I'll miss the Coventry 13 theater a whole lot. That's the site of my first real job; if I ever get bored enough to write the trendy teenage memoir, many of my highlights will have that joint - and a few music stores - as the backdrop. I'll miss the Brass Rail and downtown and all the places I've lived and all the baseball fields I've struck out on. I'm a nostalgic-as-hell guy, so I won't be surprised if I miss the Pizza Hut I regularly eat at. More than anything, I'll miss all the places I have family- and friend-related memories. No offense to anyone, but I won't miss IPFW or my high school's halls nearly as much as I'll miss all the music store carpet I wore thin.
FWR: On a personal note, it's been great reading your column and reviews over the years. You've always been an inspiration.
GL: You're great; I know this because you were my roommate for a good while. I've long been known as this guy who obsesses over music and film to a degree that gets in the way of a responsible lifestyle; meeting you - who has the same reputation - made me feel just fine about that reputation. I think we made sense of that very thing together. Neither of us cares about speedboats or vacations or much else, but we do love music and film and writing - and spent hours most days talking about these things late into the night, almost never sleeping. I don't expect to ever meet another mirror I can run into so hard. Also, you and I are both really emotional people who spend a whole lot of time in our heads, so we definitely speak a shared language and understand each other in a unique way. As much as I like your writing, talking to you face-to-face is what is really special. You have the gift of gab, surely, but back it with a stadium-full of wit, knowledge and general human interest that's impossible to find.