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Photo by Bruce Lamont
So, what does the best Led Zeppelin cover band in the world and Yakuza, the most experimental heavy-jazz project that doesn’t feature John Zorn, have in common? Well, aside from the fact that they’re both playing this year’s Psycho Las Vegas festivities — to be held August 15-18 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino — the wildly divergent acts are fronted by multihyphented musical maestro Bruce Lamont.
Widely considered to be the most talented avant-guard musician in Chicago, Lamont has also performed as part of Corrections House (with Eyehategod vocalist Mike IX Williams), Circle of Animals and Bloodiest. But his current train of focus is on Yakuza’s pre-party set August 15 at the Lounge Stage, followed by a pair of shows with Led Zeppelin 2 in the casino when the festival ends on Friday and Saturday nights.
The Big Takeover recently caught up with Lamont while he was in Richmond, Virginia, about to play a show with Led Zeppelin 2, which he fronts. A true lover of music, Lamont gushed so hard over Psycho Las Vegas that it made us reconsider whether we’re the most amped heavy-music fans who will be attending.
Why are you particularly excited to play Psycho? What makes the festival special — both from a performance perspective and as a personal experience?
LAMONT: I can’t give enough props for the programming. A lot of people really got blindsided this year. The initial lineup was great, but [with the later waves of artist announcements] it was like, “Whaaa?” There’s something for everybody this year. They’re branching out a bit more and reaching beyond just metal.
It’s really well-run. I hadn’t been there before last year. The whole music community coming in and seeing all these bands … it actually makes you want to go to Las Vegas in August, even though it’s hot as shit outside. (Playing in extremes is real fun, though.)
Yakuza’s Friday afternoon performance was — surprising to many — one of the strongest performances of last year’s entire festival. Were you taken aback by the reception you received at the Vinyl Stage?
LAMONT: Oh yeah, I was totally surprised by the response. We’d taken a little breather for a couple of years, doing different things. I love those guys [in Yakuza] to death, but we unfortunately had to let our bass player go and do a recharge. That was our first little run in seven years.
At Psycho, it was a packed room of people, and it was awesome. We got such a good response that they asked us immediately to come back in 2019. The organizers asked Zeppelin 2 to come as well. Maybe I could play the festival like Matt Pike [of High on Fire and Sleep], where I play in a different configuration every year.
One of my other favorite moments from Psycho Las Vegas 2018 was when [Rocket From the Crypt frontman] John Reis [a.k.a. “Speedo”] admitted that their saxophonist had misplaced his instrument — and then, viola, you lent the band yours for their last few songs.
LAMONT: [Laughs.] Yeah, I was watching them play, and when Speedo threw it out there that it was missing, I was like, “Have sax, will travel.” I ran out to the van, realized I didn’t have my keys, ran to my hotel room, back to the van, and got it. I thought their set would be over by the time I made it back.
I said to the saxophonist after performance, “Only you, me and maybe one other person at this festival would’ve had a horn!”
Do you have any surprises planned for your Psycho sets this year?
On Friday night, Led Zeppelin 2 is playing Led Zeppelin II. Saturday is going to be a mishmash [of Zep hits]. Led Zeppelin 2 is kinda like my other day job. It brings in some must-needed income, so I do it when I can. We’ve been at it for a long time, pounding the pavement for about 10 years or so. Folks still love Led Zeppelin.
Gotta ask, have you run into any of the members of the original band?
LAMONT: I met Robert Plant last year for the first time. Ironically, he came into the venue I was employed at and made a B-line for the bar where I was working. I was in the middle of doing three shows with Led Zeppelin 2, and he said he was happy for us.
Tell me something that happened to you in Vegas that was supposed to stay in Vegas.
LAMONT: Nothing serious, honestly. I think the worst thing I ever did was splurge some money on a roulette table and spill a drink and ruin everything. I said, “And … I’m done!” Then I tipped the table and apologized. They tried to keep me to keep playing, but I wouldn’t. I’m a late-night boozer. It was 3 a.m.
Taking psychedelics and walking down the Strip, I’ve done that more than once.
What other bands are you most excited to see perform at Psycho?
LAMONT: Opeth. Oranssi Pazuzu, definitely. Black Angels. Mark Lanegan. Of course, Triumph of Death. Warhorse. 1349 — they’re great dudes. Yob. Vio-Lence. Fu Manchu.
[Incidentally, in a soon-to-be-published Big Takeover interview with Yob bassist Aaron Rieseberg as part of our ongoing Psycho Las Vegas Preview series, he said Lamont “knows what’s up!” when it comes to music recommendations. Like Lamont, Rieseberg said Oranssi Pazuzu is at the top of his must-see list.]
What friends of yours are also playing at the festival? Who are you planning or hoping to hang with in your downtime?
LAMONT: The High on Fire fellows. Triumph of Death, for sure. [Scott] “Wino” [Weinrich of the Obsessed]. 1349. A bunch of old friends and some new friends, I’m sure.
You recently posted a pic of yourself, Wino and Williams on Instagram, with the comment, “Starting another band. :)” Were you serious?
LAMONT: Nah, we were just goofing.
What can fans and newcomers expect from your performance(s) at the festival?
LAMONT: Yakuza has been working pretty hard on a new record the past year. By Psycho, we’ll have one or two new songs. If we don’t feel comfortable with them, we might not play them. And we may play a few songs from last year. But we’ll change it up for sure.
For previous installments of the Big Takeover’s Psycho Las Vegas preview series, check out our interviews with:
• Colin H. Van Eeckhout, vocalist of Belgian post-metal purveyors Amenra
• Julien Chanut, guitarist of French sludge-doom band Hangman’s Chair
• Niklas Källgren, guitarist of Swedish fuzz fanatics Truckfighters
• Thomas Eriksen, centrifugal force behind true Norwegian black-metallers Mork
• Tobias Grave, frontman of shimmering post-rock trio Soft Kill
• Zack Simmons, drummer of blackened death-metal demigods Goatwhore
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