Kurt Vile Remembers Violators and Swirlies Guitarist Rob Laakso


This one has been hard to get out of my brain fog and into words for a long time now (and I mean the last year or so, not just since Rob’s death) Tributes are never easy but this one You are close to the bone in my mind. Thanks to everyone who came. It’s nice to see all the nice things written about Rob, because yes he’s quiet but there’s a lot
he. Musical genius. Recording whizz. Best husband and father. Mamie-Claire we love you so much you are the greatest. All the things you write are beautiful and killing me at the same time.

If anyone can, please see the link in the bio to donate in support of the Laakso family.

When I think of Rob I always travel to memories of him cutely talking to his family on FaceTime from recording sessions in the studio and Gus calling me “Mr. Kurt” (“I want to talk to Mr. Kurt”)

Talking about banjos to Gus who says there’s one featured on “I’m an outlaw” then the next time we see him (10 minutes after FaceTime again) he’s wearing a cardboard banjo and rocked out. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the proverbial tree!)

Lou you’re too young to say hi to me on the phone I guess but I can’t wait to talk to you and see you soon happy birthday ❤️

Rob and I worked together on the albums B’lieve and Bottle (he coproduced many tracks with me, always engineered, played many different instruments, killed quickly.)

But Wakin is his first full time violator record and you can see the transition to epic proportions from the smoke ring to this one. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road and in front of the amps with him but also the violators Jesse first and Kyle later. So I can’t put all these stories in one post and I just have to jump in but…

I used to follow Rob around Boston in the early days because I adored his first band the evil farleys so that was definitely my mission when I moved there for a couple of years in the early aughts… luckily he took me and recorded me even though I was awkward and shy (good thing he was too but in different ways) … later some of the stuff ended up on the Swirlies album Cats of the Wild, thanks Rob…an early dream come true (auxiliary Swirlie!)

Lately, sometimes it’s just me and him in Shawn Everett’s studio in LA to bottle it up… I keep seeing the image in my mind of Rob shaking his hand in pain after playing the same two notes on bass while I was singing and playing the lead gtr on the leather mini for over 10 minutes (but every note from Rob was solid as hell, just what you need) … that’s after the tour at sea lice with Courtney where Rob is the glue (mostly you are the glue, brother.) Thanks to my best bro Rennie for saying “my right hand man lost his right hand man” so heavy look but beautiful and true.

But I will never forget his real start to the outlaws when he showed up on the last day of the magic shop nyc sessions while I was working on the Smoke Ring with John Agnello. I had the idea to trigger the fingerpicked acoustics of the kid’s arms with synths like the freak train’s drum machine did (thanks to that jeff zeigler!) when rob visited the studio (in other bands but I knew him for years at the time. point…) he ran home and came back with an arp 2600 and sequencer and other pedals and accoutrements under his arms and did the final touches to the baby’s arms inside for about 1 hour I would say (it sounds like beautiful psychedelic raindrops singing or something. , you’ll know if you listen).

By (see my moves) you recorded parts away from home but still nailed everything as usual… but I’m so thankful we got to have you in person for a few epic nights while we recorded “say the word” at Mant with Schnapf in LA: you were in the control room playing bass next to me while I was singing and playing acoustic… the other violators in the other room were playing, everything was captured live . Later you added those angelic backing vocals from the house (“chaos comin…” mary lattimore’s favorite!) …surprisingly the only time you sang on a violators recording but now I find that cosmic and fit and magic.

Thanks Steven for this great photo of us after literally closing the primavera festival in Barcelona (I mean the dj stopped and the whole fest was over) that’s a great memory and I feel like I’m back there now when I look at it this. I looked tired and crispy but Rob was glowing, so… I had to use it.

You are loved.

KV



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