Gregory McLaughlin might be best known for having fronted the Front back in the early '80s. Since, he's continued within the world of music but has branched out considerably into film-making and painting. He's as artistically irascible today as he was back then, and this agent provocateur, now closing in on 60 years of age, is showing no signs of slowing down.
Art on the Edge is a newer venue for artistic expression in Fort Lauderdale that, as we found out in conversing with Greg, will be closing after this show due to the operator's current health issues. Undaunted, McLaughlin, along with Adam Matza, has assembled one of the better lineups showcasing the sound of South Florida's underground music today alongside some local pioneers like his old outfit, The Front, and Charlie Pickett.
We had a chance to speak with Greg about the Front, the scene back in the day and how arts and music have changed down here in the last 30 years.
Let's talk for a second about the Front and how the band formed.
Gregory McLaughlin: The Front began in 1980. The band was an offshoot of the Miami Beach-based band Music of the Spheres. I was playing bass, Larry Hill on drums, and Randy Rush on lead guitar. We were recording at the beach house for Music of the Spheres when Warren Tepper, son of famous songwriter Sid Tepper, walked right in off the beach. He introduced himself, and before you knew it we gave him a tape of four tunes that I had written to play for his dad. The next day he said he really liked the direction we were heading and asked us about forming a different band.
Randy was playing with another band at the time with Steve Myers on bass and Flynn Picardal on guitar and synth so after Warren offered to manage us, Randy asked me if I would drop the bass and be the front man. I did, and we began from there. Three weeks later, we had written about 15 tunes and our very first show was at the Agora Ballroom in Hallandale and then the wild ride began from rehearsing in Randy's living room to working our way up to playing the Sunrise Musical Theater and eventually ending the band on a creative high.
Aside from the two 7" records, did you guys record anything else? Any chance of those being reissued?
We recorded more than 30 songs, some at Sync Studios, some at Criteria; we were always writing and recording as much as we could any way we could. I released two retrospective CDs Let's Go Bongo Fury and A Little Nukie Never Hurt Nobody which can be found at CDBaby.com as well as iTunes, etc. I would like to release a vinyl retrospective at some point down the road.
What kind of response have you had since making Invisible Bands?
Actually, a pretty good response from those who are covered in it. I never pursued any sort of distribution for it and it was never reviewed, I never intended to make money with it. I made it as a learning experience and to give some sort of acknowledgement to the original bands that were playing in South Florida back then. It was fun and I learned a lot I didn't know and I was there. It was a learning curve to make, and it prepared me for the documentary I am about to screen at Cinema Paradiso on September 20: The Front - The Band That Time Forgot, a story about every band who climbed the music ladder and failed. An American failure story.
This show coming up has a pretty solid lineup that represents different facets of South Florida's music scene now. Was this a deliberate move or how did you end up with these performers?
Yes, it was deliberate. I really like what the experimental artists are doing as well as the original punkish bands out there in Dade and Broward today so it really wasn't that hard. Adam Matza has been helping me with promoting and acquiring artists for the gigs as well as performing his own work. I am very grateful for his effort, Adam is someone to watch coming up, he is a true artist in every sense of the word.
Will the Front have more than six hours of rehearsal before taking the stage? Who will be in the lineup?
Yeah, probably not much more though. The lineup is the late Randy Rush's former stand-in and Ricky Martin's tour guitarist Dave Cabrera on lead guitar, Rob Elba guitar, William Trev on bass, and Blake Eden on drums and me screaming and suffocating.
How did you become involved with Art on the Edge?
A mutual friend introduced me to Pamela Anne Nolan, owner of Art On The Edge Gallery. I showed Pamela some of my art and she liked my Alien Jesus paintings and gave me a venue to exhibit my art for which I am very grateful and will be forever in her and my friend's debt. She wanted to make the gallery a gathering spot for all aspiring artists but unfortunately she has to go back to Canada to take care of some health issues.
We need more people like her. She instilled confidence in my artwork. Although I paint, the art world is a new and different animal to me which I am eager to learn from and jump into. We put on few really fun shows. The last one will be the best. Then again, I have learned in life, you never say never, so who knows what the future holds.
It's my understanding that this will be the final show there? What happened and how does that impact the center?
Yes, unfortunately it will be the last show there. Its impact can't be measured, as it was not around long enough to have had a strong impact and due to the owner's health issues, the closing can't be avoided. It was just starting to get a buzz and as John Lennon said: "Life happens to you when you're busy making other plans." And how true that is. Erich Kerl of Studio Kanter Gallery will be working with me on some future events and Pamela still has plans for some projects here and in Canada, so you never know what's around the next corner. One thing I do know is that I will still be painting my brains out and causing trouble wherever I can.
As an artist and musician, what do you see in South Florida now that you didn't when you were first around 30-odd years ago?
There were no smart phones or computers for one thing. The changes are immense and at the same time little has changed. In one respect, South Florida's arts community has grown to levels unimagined yet venues for the unknown, original artists are few and far between, I am pushing 60, and I have been down here since 1969. The major difference I have seen is the musicians and artists today like to work together and help each other, back in my time it was the typical competition that all scenes had back then and some probably still do today, don't let anybody fool ya, it wasn't all lollypops and candy hearts.
There were factions back then, but it was a whole lotta fun! Many great bands spawned from that like Charlie Pickett, the Eat, Screamin' Sneakers, Roll N Pinz to name a few; these original artists paved the way for all who came after them. I have good feelings about the art community here and even though the venues change, the spirit of creativity in South Florida is alive and well, getting stronger and ready to pounce on you. That's not a threat, that's a promise!
The Front with Charlie Pickett, Riot Agents, Adam Matza, Surfer Pig, Kenny Millions, Zira, Laundry Room Squelchers, DJ Skidmark, and Rosalia Curbelo, 8 p.m., July 19, at Youth of Nations Project of the Arts & Art On the Edge, 19 NW 7th Ave, Fort Lauderdale. No cover. Visit Facebook.