MISSING LINK
Discovering Link Wray's Lost Album

May 2nd was his birthday, but he died 11 years ago. Link Wray, the inventor of the power cord, the originator of the distorted guitar, the Shawnee guitar god clad in black leather is one of my few heroes. Russian surf guitarist Oleg Gitaracula of the Messer Chups had shared a post by Link's daughter, Beth that brought the sad anniversary to my attention. I had already been throwing kustom kulture events I called "Rumbles" in New York and Florida, so it's an understatement to say he made an impact on my weird world... and not just mine. Iggy, Bowie, The Cramps, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Sid Vicious, Neil Young, Jack White, Slash, Jeff Beck, Eric Clapton, Dan Auerbach, Elvis Costello and countless others cite him as a major influence. Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan played "Rumble" live on the day he died. So there I was, looking at Beth's page for new photos, when I saw a video for a song I had not heard of called, "Torture". The name grabbed me. Harsh, sexy guitar? S/m title? A song by Link I had never heard? CLICK.

What I heard wasn't a distorted guitar instrumental. It wasn't a twangy rockabilly song. It was an uncharacteristically melancholy, almost darkwave, ballad about a broken heart. Imagine a cigarette smoking Roy Orbison on a Roxy Music track from the 80's with lyrics by Robert Smith. Oh, and yes, a crying, soaring guitar. It was never released outside of Europe. So that means it never saw the shores of the Americas, and until recently, none of it was found online as it's been out of print since it was first released in 1993. That's back in those pre-interweb days, kids. Even his devoted daughter, Beth, did not have copies of the 10 songs comprising the lost album, "Indian Child".

This was one of those days when the internet wasn't a complete diddle of time. A google here. A facebook message there. 20 minutes later, I'm instant messaging with the album's producer, Kim Hyttel, in Denmark, on Link's birthday. Kim was 5 years old when Link's instrumental, "Rumble" was banned from New York radio for fear it would cause violence. Think about that for a second. This isn't NWA. It's not Mayhem. It's an instrumental guitar work, banned-from-the-radio. Link was more punk than we will ever be. Kim was a fan of Link's too. He has produced more than forty albums, many of which reached platinum status and were awarded Grammies in Denmark, where he was the head of Sony A&R when Link moved there. He's now teaching at Engelsholm Hojskole and after our conversation, he dedicated his lecture the next day to the memory of Link. This interview is my tribute.




MIREMONT
How did it happen that you and Link worked together?

HYTTEL
I was head of A & R at Sony Denmark in the early nineties, where I signed a Danish band, originally known as a early punk rock band "Sort Sol". I already knew Link was living in Denmark and the session with Sort Sol granted me the opportunity to invite Link to make some guitar parts for their album. This was the beginning.

MIREMONT
When you were bringing him in for the session work, did you already know that you'd want to talk to him about doing an album?

HYTTEL
It was my intention yes

MIREMONT
Were you a fan of his work? If so do you remember when you first got into it?

HYTTEL
A friend of mine had a radio program that featured Link and that was my first presentation to the man and his music. I had heard Rumble early on and realized how extraordinary this man was. I had also heard him in the Robert Gordon band.

MIREMONT
So how did the sessions with the punk band go and what was your first impression of Link in person?

HYTTEL
It was a very long and complicated session, and Link arrived in the studio with his Danish girl friend/manager. He was very kind and enthusiastic. He recorded a track on one song "Tatlin Tower" and then we started courting each other, with the girl friend as the go between. Thinking back, I really don't know how we managed to finish a recording deal. The ghosts from his previous encounters with the music business were present in those discussions and I was booked with other recordings, so we had to wait several months before we could initiate what would become Indian Child.

MIREMONT
Did the discussions take place casually over dinners and socially or were they in an office and business-like?

HYTTEL
It was mostly the girl friend on the telephone, with a few visits to my office. The girl friend was not a person you felt casual with. At least I didn't.

MIREMONT
I get the picture. I saw her playing lead tambourine at his last NY show. Apart from the business, which is never easy in that situation, especially when an artist had been burned by other labels before you meet them, let's talk about the production of the album: Did Link already have these songs written and in demo form? How did you know what you were getting into song-wise with Indian Child?

HYTTEL
It took quite a while before I got the demos. Link was very secretive, always afraid of being robbed again by the record company, but the songs seemed to have been underway for some years.

MIREMONT
Do you remember which songs you heard first and what you thought of them?

HYTTEL
I believe "Trying to Find Your Love" was one of the first demos I listened to, and it surprised me, because it was more pop than I expected. It seemed like Link hoped for a big commercial break.

MIREMONT
The whole album is unique that way. For someone who is known primarily for his genre-defining instrumental work, the album doesn't have a single guitar-centric track; and it seems to be informed by several different genres with him doing vocal duties on all of them. There are elements of dark ballads, gospel, blues, rockabilly and country too... it's quite the singular Link Wray album. What did you say to him hearing this mixture, or did you just facilitate his vision?

HYTTEL
The songs sort encapsulated all of American rock culture and that actually intrigued me. I wrote my thesis on early Elvis Presley and had involved Elvis' vocal group the Jordanaires in several sessions before Link, so I was very much into that stuff. But I had no clue where the session would take us. I had to take it song by song.

MIREMONT
So the deal is done. You've heard the demos. You book the studio time... at this point, Link is fairly new to living in Denmark... did he have a band at the time or who played on it?

HYTTEL
He actually had a Danish band, but the drummer had just recently passed away, and I chose another band, which I had worked with on other sessions. I needed some rock solid guys, because I knew we where in for a storm. The band was Shaky Ground with Jan Mols, guitar; Carsten Egholm, bass; Erik Lodberg, drums; and me on keyboards. Every day Link and his girl friend arrived in the studio in a cab. I went out to pay the fare, but there would also most often be new demands, one way or the other, before Link would leave the car and step into the studio.

MIREMONT
What kind of demands?

HYTTEL
More upfront money than already stipulated etc

MIREMONT
This happened everyday?

HYTTEL
It happened on nearly every day we recorded. Looking back, it was quite an achievement that we got around to playing. But when we played, all the agonies were forgotten.

MIREMONT
This is back in 1993. Do you remember where you recorded?

HYTTEL
I liked to produce in houses, so we put up a mobile studio in a rented house north of Copenhagen. The basic recording lasted 14 days, and the whole session around 2 months including mix

MIREMONT
OK, so business hurdles aside, how did it go from demos to songs? Did you arrange it and he came in and did vocal and guitar over it, or did you flush out the songs together as a band?

HYTTEL
Since I knew the band intimately, I knew what to expect from them and that constituted a framework. With Link you couldn't arrange anything. He just played. It was rehearsal and recording in the same process with me arranging on the fly from the control room. After he had laid down his tracks, I had free hands to produce and mix.

MIREMONT
So you recorded 10 songs in 14 days with no rehearsals, with a band that had not played with Link before and a girlfriend changing terms daily? With all those things against you, you still somehow captured the most emotional singer/songwriter tracks of Link's long career. What are some of your recollections of those 14 days?

HYTTEL
As complicated as music can be, it can be simple at the same time. We played it by heart and from the heart. Link used his famous setting on the fender twin reverb- all buttons to the bottom. Everything about Link was full volume. It was a digital studio, but with vintage mic pre-amps and compressors. Link was half deaf, with a quarter of a lung, but full of vigor. The recording was very intense, since Link only had one gear... and that was to the max. I am sure he collapsed when he got home. All the bickering from the girl friend was balanced by Link's generosity as a musician and human being... he was really sweet. Everyone involved in that session remember it as a high in their career. I tracked the keyboards after the basic tracks and then came Link with the vocals. He had enough air for one take a day, and after that take he cried from happiness and fulfillment. A fierce commitment and he was funny... good sense of humor. He was a force of nature... a rock shaman. But his jokes was not for a greater public... they were very base

MIREMONT
You'll have to tell me some of them later. I can imagine the magic in the room when he was left to do what he was born to do. Since he is not regarded as a singer/songwriter as much as a guitar god, were there any standout moments for you with his vocals? "Torture" which opens the album is haunting. Do you have any insight into this or his other songs?

HYTTEL
He didn't explain his songs maybe because we perceived them as self-explanatory... every song was like opening a gift, but it was truly amazing experiencing him perform them. It was like being brought to the core of rock n roll. In the final analysis, I believe our session was the only time in his career where Link was given the means to fulfill his musical ambitions. It was the right team at the right time and place

MIREMONT
It sounds like you created a great environment for him to open up and express himself not just with his guitar, but with words; words that meant a lot to him and showed us his many sides. How did the sessions end?

HYTTEL
The session ended with me mixing alone with my engineer. Link was already onto the next part of the negotiations. He would not get himself in front of a camera. I ended up taking a Polaroid for the cover. At first he was very happy, but soon after, the paranoia took over... and when I finally managed to get Creation to release the album, by circumventing the Sony bureaucracy, he wanted to distance himself from Sony DK. It was before and after very tactical. But during the recording, it was pure love.

MIREMONT
So you took it upon yourself to put this whole album together for Link, to get him some money up front and to record his singer/songwriter originals which show a different side of him from his guitar god legend, what happened after that? Why did it never get released in the Americas?

HYTTEL
I knew the album would have a life, and of course we hoped that a release was possible in US, but SONY headquarters in New York didn't want to put it out. And that was it. I was for my part engulfed in new sessions, and couldn't keep up the pressure. Sony had no big heart for music... they were business people not aficionados. I'm a music lover. I did it for my own sake. I wanted to make an recording with Link, because I felt I could do it, and do it better than the most, and I would feel ashamed if Link died in Denmark without being properly recorded.

MIREMONT
It sounds like you went through a lot to get it done, from all sides... and speaking for other music lovers out here, thank you for fighting through it to get it done. I thought I had heard all of Link's work; so when I discovered this, and discovered how different it is from his other work, it gave me a fresh vantage point from which I could look at his life and his work- especially his darker, heartbroken side, which counters so much of what we know from his rockers. Did you run into Link after this collaboration? Are there any other stories you can share with us about his time in Denmark?

HYTTEL
He kept himself away from everyone involved in the session afterwards. I had a trip to London with him and his girl friend, a promotional gig for Creation. As always, when you were one on one with Link, he was sweet and funny. I have no regrets and no bad thoughts about Link. He played his part as I did mine.



Beth now has copies of all the songs. - Mark





The cover for "Indian Child" with notes in Link's handwriting.