Working with Lou, Part 1: Drummer and producer Fred Maher

One of Lou Reed’s favorite collaborators talks about making ‘New York’ and more

November 20, 2013

This weekend, Sound Opinions will air its show-length tribute to the artist that Greg Kot and I consider one of the most important in rock history, and whose music arguably has meant more to us than any other: Lou Reed, who died on Oct. 27 at the age of 71.

Even for those of us who were lucky enough to meet and interview Reed several times, many questions linger about what the man was really like. For some insights into the man and the artist in the days following his death, I turned to several musicians who were privileged to work on some of Reed’s best solo albums.

Drummer Fred Maher first performed The Blue Mask on stage with Reed in 1982 after being recruited by guitarist Robert Quine, with whom he had made a great instrumental album called Basic. A veteran of the No New York noise-rock underground who played with Massacre, Material, and Scritti Politti and later produced Trip Shakespeare, Lloyd Cole, and Matthew Sweet, Maher powered the rhythms in one of Reed’s best bands during one of the rock giant’s most fruitful periods, drumming on Legendary Hearts (1983), New Sensations (1984), Live in Italy (1984), and Mistrial (1986).

Even more impressively, Maher played on and produced what many consider one of Reed’s best solo albums: New York, released in 1989.

A portion of my chat with Maher will air on Sound Opinions, but you can listen to it here in its full, unedited entirety. I’m also posting a video clip of Maher with Reed, guitarist Robert Quine, and bassist Fernando Saunders—the strongest of any of the songwriter’s bands during his solo years—performing “Waves of Fear” from The Blue Mask onstage at New York’s Bottom Line in 1983 (the young Jim DeRogatis is somewhere in that crowd) and another live performance of the track “Endless Cycle” from New York, which Maher spoke about in our interview.

(Thanks to Sound Ops producers Robin Linn and Jason Saldanha for helming the audio, and to Andrew Gill for posting it. Also visit soundopinions.org to read my long historical essay and critical overview of Reed’s greatest band, which I wrote for the 2009 book I edited for Voyageur Press, The Velvet Underground: An Illustrated History of a Walk on the Wild Side. And follow me on Twitter @JimDeRogatis or join me on Facebook.)