Hello reader! This week is a real special one. I got to talk with local singer/song writer, sound engineer, producer, guitar player, and one of my best friends, Russell Lacy. He’s got his debut album pressed and ready to roll, as well as a brand-new music video to accompany it. Lacy and I go way back to the days of Emilio’s open mic nights, have worked together on some special projects, and have had countless lunch dates. In this interview, we discuss the evolution of Russell’s home studio, The Virginia Moonwalker, the making of his new album, and the cover art for his self-titled debut. Here’s our conversation:
Gabe: What’s going on, Russell?
Russell: Not much Gabe. How are you doing?
Gabe: I’m great. I’m great. I listened to your record this morning. My record player works. Thank you for bringing the vinyl by. It sounds awesome. I’m super proud of you. I got to have one of those cliché moments, where I’m listening the record and I’m looking at the cover art hard. Falling in love with it. So, let’s go back. How far back do some of these songs go, and how recent are some of them, in terms of song ideas?
Russell: The oldest one… which one is the oldest one? There’s probably one at least, like, five years old. Well okay, five years old from when I started recording it. So that was right before the pandemic hit. So then I wrote, I don’t know, at least three of them during the process of making the record. Because initially, we were only going to record, I don’t know, six songs or something. So yeah, like the piano one, because I learned how to play piano over the [pandemic].
Gabe: Oh yeah. You got pretty good at that.
Russell: That’s where “Every Morning” and “Two Cents” were specifically. “Two Cents,” you can totally fucking tell that I just learned how to play “Lady Madonna.” And I never thought I’d be able to do that, and then I wrote “Two Cents.”
Gabe: Well it sounds great. I think remember you showing me the album at The Virginia Moonwalker almost a year ago. Was it already completed back then?
Russell: I can’t remember. Do you remember when y’all came out? Because I think it was September .
Gabe: I was going to say that too. September.
Russell: Yeah. And like a month later, I had the [song] order.
Gabe: So, before we go forward, let me go back further than that. So, it was all recorded at the Virginia fuckin’ Moonwalker, which is how it’s referred to in the liner notes.
Russell: [laughs] Indeed!
Gabe: Can you give a brief history of the studio and the role it played in making the album?
Russell: Well, the Virginia Moonwalker started because I had this love for a fellow musician in Richmond named Gabe Santamaria. And I was trying to get his attention.
Gabe: [laughs] Oh man. What a waste of time.
Russell: [laughs] I should’ve told him.
Gabe: If remember correctly, the big three [bands] at the beginning of the Virginia Moonwalker were Tarrant, Flavor Project [Gabe’s band], and Mikrowaves?
Russell: Tarrant, Flavor, Mikrowaves, Milkstains.
Gabe: Yeah. The first four. That was all in the same year, right?
Russell: That it was. Yeah, that was when the only thing I was recording on was tape. So it was cheap. Like, you guys just came in and played, and I hit record.
Gabe: Yeah, I remember.
Russell: I don’t think you were ever here more than, like, three hours. The author’s [got the] most efficient band I’ve ever been around.
Gabe: Well, that can be argued. Might have to edit that. We don’t want slanderous material out there from this interview.
Russell: Well, y’all were very easy to work with.
Gabe: Thank you, Russell. So I haven’t been there since maybe 2015 to record. But I’ve seen the studio grow so much, and your home. There’s a whole dog there now. I know when we were there, you were all on tape and had the eight-track, huge old-school mixing board. What changes have been made since, and what board did you use for your debut album? I know there’s a different one in there now.
Russell: Yeah. So, this whole record was kind of the same view of the of the new system. I’ve got a new board called the TAC Matchless. It’s a really awesome board. And then I’ve got these other upgrades. We’re in Pro Tools land. So, good converters. And they’re ones that are not necessarily new, but they’re industry-standard stuff. So I knew that we were working. Like, if the record didn’t sound good, it wasn’t our fault.
Gabe: Seeing the journey from then to now has been eye opening. That’s a great place for the Moonwalker to be in.
Russell: Yeah, I mean, the gear is good, but you can’t only depend on that. It is being able to put it all through its paces and see what the fuck you can really do. Plus, working with awesome people.
Gabe: Hell yeah. Well, I listened to the new album and was just staring at the cover. And I gotta ask: is that mask real?
Russell: Yeah! I’ve had it since I was a kid. It’s been around as long as I’ve been alive.
Russell: I’ve had it my entire life. I never had anything [else] like that, really. It’s weird, because this mask, it was just around, and it scared the shit out of me and my brother. But it was just [there], even before either of us were born. I think the story is my dad went to a Halloween party and didn’t have a costume. So he just stopped somewhere and picked this fucking mask up, and it’s been laying around ever since. And then, [it was] one of the things that, when I got older and they were emptying out all our old toys and throwing our old stuff, I saw that and I was like, “Well, it’s not exactly the same as Ninja Turtles.”
It is a creepy mask, and the cover art is cleverly eerie. Russell Lacy’s self-titled album has been a long time coming, and it’s an achievement you don’t want to sleep on from a local that is as RVA as they come. His album release party is August 14th at Gallery 5. Tickets are available at Gallery 5’s website, and the album is also available for purchase on vinyl at The Virginia Moonwalker website. He’s got tons of stuff going on and we’ve got to keep this momentum going. Cheers to art, original music, and one of my best friends.
Photos by R. Anthony Harris
More information HERE