Living Colour's Doug Wimbish Discusses Band Reunions, Jimi Hendrix, and Embracing Your Fears

A lot has happened to funk-metal pioneers Living Colour in the 23 years since their breakthrough album, Vivid, was released. After having hits with their songs "Cult of Personality" and "Open Letter (To a Landlord)," the band broke up while the members devoted themselves to various solo and side projects. They reunited in 2000, but have never achieved the commercial success of Vivid -- or the recognition they deserve for being one of only two African-American hard rock acts to break into the mainstream.

The other? Jimi Hendrix, of course. So it's only fitting that Living Colour is one of many stellar acts on the "Experience Hendrix" tour, coming to Mesa Arts Center on Monday, May 23.

Living Colour bassist Doug Wimbish is, obviously, a huge Jimi Hendrix fan. Speaking with New Times via phone from Las Vegas, he says, "His music lives in my brain from the time I was a kid. My favorite musician to ever walk this planet is probably Jimi Hendrix. Period."

"Hendrix did some stuff that radiates," Wimbish continues. "He's done some stuff that not many players have done in their lifetimes -- and he did it in a very brief career, and a very brief life. He was only recording for a few years. Four summers, and it was a wrap. But he's always been a star."

For Wimbish, getting to share the stage with other notable players who love Hendrix -- including Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Steve Vai, and Billy Cox (who played with Hendrix's Band of Gypsys and The Jimi Hendrix Experience) -- is a thrill. But he's also happy to be back with his bandmates in Living Colour.

The decision to reunite came after Living Colour singer Corey Glover and guitarist Vernon Reid joined Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun on stage at CBGB's in late 2000, where the rhythm section's side project, Head>>Fake, was playing. But the deciding factor, Wimbish says, was "fear."

"That's what drives everything in life, the reality of looking at something you love, and it finds a way to separate itself, and then finds its way back," he says. "There were certain things that needed to be cleared up...but mostly, it was fear -- 'Maybe I should call Vernon, but I'm afraid' or 'Maybe our music isn't what the industry's looking for right now'...it's getting over the fear of being successful, of not being succesful, of having to see that person you've been trying to avoid. The fear of not being honest with each other kept circulating. But if you engage your fear collectively with your mates, then it becomes fun."

"From 1984 to now, it's been a long journey," Wimbish continues. "But at the end of the day, we're lucky we can talk to each other and we're still living and breathing and having a good time making music."

Living Colour is scheduled to perform at the Experience Hendrix tour Monday, May 23, at Mesa Arts Center. Visit www.experiencehendrixtour.com for more information.

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