Gerry Laffy, a singer, guitarist, record producer, film producer, graphic artist, and band member of Girl, London Cowboys, Sheer Greed, Ultravox, among others, has probably had one of the busiest and diverse careers on the planet. Twenty years later the band "Girl" still serves as an influential force to many in the music field.
Sometime this summer, Cherry Red Records will be releasing "ROCKS", a selection of 20 of Laffy's favorite rock tracks from his solo and Sheer Greed albums. If this 20-track sample is well received, fans will be able to download more from Cherry Red Records later this year. Laffy is currently writing and recording more.
Laffy has played with artists such as Duran Duran, and former band members from The New York Dolls, The Idols, The Sex Pistols, and ex-Freddie Mercury's guitarist, Chris Chesney. He has performed in huge arenas including Wembley Arena, the Reading Festival, and Taipei Hard Rock Cafe.
Aside from music Laffy also worked as a personal manager for film director Russell Mulcahy, forming a company called LeBad Films. He was involved in making award winning music videos for Duran Duran, The Rolling Stones, Queen, Elton John, Fleetwood Mac, and Billy Joel, just to name a few.
Currently he is a successful artist in London with an international celebrity clientele. He is known for his quirky, pop art/mixed media campuses. I shared questions and answers with Gerry and have found him one of the most fascinating people I have never met yet....
Eileen Shapiro: After 20 some-odd years, "Girl" is still considered a very influential music force by many. Why do you think that is from your point of view?
Gerry Laffy: Strange, isn't it? It's 40 years later and we are hip again. I think it was because we came out just before the glam explosion in America. We were pretty boys wearing make-up, bullet belts and feminine clothes and playing hard rock with a swagger that nodded to bands we liked; Aerosmith, T Rex, Bowie circa Spiders From Mars. I am told by Phil Collen and Phil Lewis they have heard from lots of the mid 80s rock super stars that Girl and Hanoi Rocks influenced them. That's pretty cool. They in turn influenced up and coming bands who wanted to know where they got influence from. I must say the debut album Sheer Greed still stands up as a good record. I am still proud of it. The first song I ever wrote My Number (with Philip Lewis) has been covered countless times, so has Hollywood Tease, a song Phil Collen wrote with Philip. The LA Guns recorded it and still use it in their live set.
Eileen Shapiro: What has been going on in your life professionally since then?
Gerry Laffy: After Girl, I managed Russell Mulcahy, a video maker that had a very high profile even by 1982 when I started to manage him. Phil Lewis and I were managing Girl and in 1982 he said 'now Phil Collen has joined Def Leppard it's curtains for your band, why not manage me, I want to make movies not videos'. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. I made 12 films and over 100 videos with Russell. Many big hits, a dozen videos for Duran Duran; most of the big hits from Planet Earth to Wild Boys (but not Girls of Film), more than a dozen for Elton John (I'm Still Standing in 1982, up to The One in 1991), several for Billy Joel (Pressure, Allentown, Matter of Trust) The Rolling Stones (One Hit to the Body, Going to a Go Go), Fleetwood Mac (Gypsy), Spandau Ballet (True) I could go on and on, but I won't. Russell did a small film in Australia called Razorback in 1983 and with that we got Highlander, which was a $100 million worldwide hit and is in itself immortal as the combo of Russell, Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery and Queen is still one thing that people ask me about most. Even to this day.
I got to hang out with Queen, dinners at Freddie's with members of Queen and Duran Duran. As Gerry Laffy from Girl often I would have to pinch myself lol. I managed Russell for 15 amazing years (1982-1997) and met SO many amazing people from music and film world. From 1997-2000 I played lead guitar with John Taylor after he quit Duran Duran. That was one gig in Germany that turned into 3 years of touring with him and loads of CD releases. After that I worked in advertising for a while before I discovered a love and some talent for working with kids with a learning difficulty. First as just an art teacher but now I find myself in any week teaching maybe art, drama, cooking, maths, English, just not sports (laughs). I am still enjoying doing that 17 years later. I have never stopped doing art or music, but that is my "day job". I have worked at the same North London College for the past decade.
Eileen Shapiro: You have also worked in the film industry, which do you find more challenging and why?
Gerry Laffy: To be honest I was very fortunate that Russell was much in demand. I did help him make decisions and I cut the deals, but once he was on a film I often returned to music and art until he had shot the picture, was in editing and we started the process of looking for the next job. He had five homes at one point (LA, London, two in Sydney and Spain) so they needed to be managed and for a while he also did music videos and big scale commercials between films, so I dealt with all that. For example, when he was shooting Highlander I went on tour with the London Cowboys (with members of the Idols, New York Dolls and the Sex Pistols). I was never a great fan of the film business. The hours are too early and days are too long. I prefer to watch them than make them.
Eileen Shapiro: What was it like for you during the time you were involved doing all those videos including Duran Duran, Elton John, Queen, and all the others?
Gerry Laffy: Again, I had an enviable position to sit down with Russell and say "OK we've been offered a video with Elton in Miami, then an ad for a car company in Detroit or you can shoot a Stones video in London" or a similar kind of conversation. We'd talk logistics and what deal I could cut and he would decide what he fancied doing. Sometimes a client just wouldn't give up until he said yes. In that type of scenario (as any good manager would) you got your price up. He did one music video that where I got him a six figure pay check. He thought I meant that was the budget, I said "No, that's over a million". Often on videos I got to just hang out with the artists, make sure they were happy while Russell got on with making them look awesome. I only produced his videos twice in the 15 years I managed him, as being a manager I wanted him to get whatever he wanted, being a producer meant reigning him in.
Eileen Shapiro: Aside from that, you are a highly acclaimed artist, how did that originate?
Gerry Laffy: I have always done art. I was a junior in the graphic art department at London Weekend Television when I met Philip Lewis and we decided to put a band together. I have been in 20 or so exhibitions (including 4 or 5 shows this year) and I have the Gerry Laffy Art Collective, we are a group of 14 artist with the motto "Some of us are professional, some semi pro, some students and some have a learning difficulty, the collective will not identify which is which." It kind of is a mash up of my art/management/SEN careers put to some good use. WE have some really TOP artists support us. My biggest support is my mate Mason Storm, in my opinion a true modern master and just a stand-up guy. I am somewhat "acclaimed" (maybe even notorious) as a mixed media artist and have loads of cool artists (mostly rock stars and media typed) that just keep coming back. I get calls like "Hey, Laffy, I just bought a house in the Cotswolds and want something for the games room, something cool". For most of my career I have used gold leaf, diamond dust, stone, diamante etc. It's kind of my shtick. I am know for my irreverence to fame and to politics, my motto "Fuck 'em if they can't take a joke."
Eileen Shapiro: You have worked in many creative fields. Which, if any, do you consider your destiny?
I must admit I do love playing guitar and writing and recording songs at my home studio, but I love working with special needs people. Some of my favorite people on the planet are Down syndrome. High autism, harder work but very rewarding.
Eileen Shapiro: The album ROCKS, how did that come about and when is it set to release?
Gerry Laffy: This year I licensed my eleven album catalogue to Cherry Red Records. They have the rights to three of my Girl live recordings and the streaming and download rights to my five solo albums, a record I did with my brother Simon called Lying with Angels (1993) and two Sheer Greed albums. Sheer Greed was the name of the first Girl album and was also a band I put together in 1992 with the alumni of Girl. It was myself on vocals and guitar, my brother Simon on bass, and Pete Barnacle, we also had a guest appearance from Philip Lewis on one track and Phil Collen played lead guitar on four tracks and acted as the executive producer. It was made exactly 10 years after Girl split up and has been the nearest thing that will (likely) ever be to a reunion. The second SG was a live album and we brought in Neil Gabbitas from Tracie Hunter's band to help us out although it was only me on the studio record. I call the "Sublime to the Ridiculous" album my "house album" because it was recorded at my house, Joe Elliott's house and Phil Collen's house. Anyhow with the Rocks compilation release I wanted to pick 20 of my favorite rock tracks from my solo and Sheer Greed albums, if people like the sampler CD they can download more from Cherry Red Records later this year. The Rocks album I should have ready for release by the middle of June probably. I am on Facebook, I will post on the Gerry Laffy page and the Sheer Greed (Girl fan club) page when it's available.
Eileen Shapiro: Beyond your ROCKS, will there be another music project on the horizon?
Gerry Laffy: Yes, there is, in fact I have already started writing new material that I intend to try and record this summer. I will be at my home studio again. Last two albums I did everything myself. To my detriment I think. This time I may do some co-writes and will definitely get in guest musicians but not the old Girl troupe, some other mates. I have written four, almost five songs, and I am working with some young drum beatz guys, I want some modern drum beatz to work with, I don't want to make a straight ahead rock album. I am hoping that people will like it, but say "Damn, I wasn't expecting THAT from Laffy".