Rocker Lou Reed takes aim at new technology

Fri Mar 14, 2008 5:37am EDT

Lou Reed performs during a concert in Berlin, June 26, 2007. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Lou Reed performs during a concert in Berlin, June 26, 2007.

Credit: Reuters/Wolfgang Rattay

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AUSTIN, Texas (Billboard) - Lou Reed is lashing out at new modes of audio technology, saying that "people have got to demand a higher standard" than current MP3 music files.

The edgy rocker delivered the keynote speech at the South By Southwest Music Festival + Conference, which is underway in Austin, Texas.

Reed was interviewed Wednesday by producer Hal Willner, who recently worked with him on the opulent "Berlin" concerts in which the musician delivered a theatricalized concert version of his under-appreciated 1973 concept album of the same name. Those shows are the subject of "Lou Reed's Berlin," a documentary by Oscar-nominated director Julian Schnabel that had its American premiere at SXSW.

In typically glib and dry-witted form throughout the wide-ranging 55-minute conversation, the bespectacled Reed bemoaned the current state of audio and other digital technologies, noting that "it's like the technology is taking us backwards. It's making it easier to make things worse.

"Here's our song reduced to a pin drop -- what, what, what?!" Reed explained. "It's like if no one knows any better or doesn't care, it's gonna stay on a really, really low level and people who like good sound are gonna be thought of as some kind of strange zoo animal."

Reed did express some hope that "you hear they've got a newer version (of MP3) that sounds better, and you suddenly hear the other instruments that are on the song. They've got to bring up the standard. You have the world open to you now; you can get almost any song in the world as an MP3, and I suppose if you like it you can go out and try to find a version you can actually listen to -- if you like good sound. If you don't like good sound, none of this matters for a second."

During the session, Reed said he plans to stage the "Berlin" shows in Europe this summer but not in the United States. The "Berlin" concert concept "wasn't an audition to do more of these things" with any of his other albums, though he said 1992's "Magic and Loss" and 1978's "Street Hassle" would be good candidates if he did want to try it again.

Reuters/Billboard

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