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As we go about the business of finding and listening to new progressive rock music it's easy to forget about all the people who toil behind the scenes to expose the artists we enjoy to the world at large. Thats where someone like Lori Hehr comes into the picture. You've probably never come accross her name but as the principle of Lori Hehr Public Relations she has the task of promoting an eclectic roster of artists from Pineapple Thief to King Crimson.

Here's my conversation with Lori... 

Jerry Lucky: Part of what I like to do is expose the people who toil behind the scenes to the greater prog community. Now you run a public relations company. So first tell us how you got involved doing that and then perhaps explain how you got involved working within the music community.

 

Lori Hehr: After attending Washington State, I moved to Los Angeles with the intent of getting into the entertainment business.  I got a lucky break and started work as an assistant publicist at PMK Public Relations in Beverly Hills.  They handled all the big movie stars of the time including Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Kim Basinger.  It was quite an eye opening experience for a 21 year old and I quickly learned that I related to musicians much better than movie stars.  I moved on from there to working with a few independent music PR firms, spending the most time with Bobbi Marcus, who is a great woman and really taught me how to do this business.

 

JL: Was music a part of your life before you started doing this for a living?

 

LH: Very much so.  I was a huge music geek as a kid, always more into listening to music than watching TV.  I studied piano starting in childhood and was a music minor in college.

 

JL: How is it that you gravitated to promoting the artists you currently work with, because they're an eclectic bunch to say the least?

 

LH: They are and that makes me so happy.  I started out promoting mostly jazz artists with my personal taste being the fusion jazz artists like Joe Zawinul and Jean Luc Ponty.  After I went out on my own, I noticed online that Robert Fripp was starting DGM up in America as a music label.  I contacted his label manager here in the states to see if they needed a publicist, as I had been a Crimson fan since college. They hired me and it brought me into the Crimson family, where I've been lucky to handle many related artists and like-minded artists.

 

JL: Do the artists you work with reflect your personal musical tastes?

 

LH: Very much so.  I listen to all types of music but I love "progressive" music. The more risks and surprises in the music, the better.

 

JL: Tell us what are some of the daily tasks you undertake to promote the various artists on your roster?

 

LH: I spend the majority of my day contacting writers and broadcasters about the current CDs of my artists, encouraging them to listen and write about the music.   I set up interviews for the artists, promote any upcoming shows the artist has and help tailor press kit materials for my artists.

 

JL: Now you're based in the Pacific Northwest. Does location have any affect on your tasks?

 

LH: These days everyone is so internet based that it doesn't seem to matter where one is located.  I don't get to meet people in person as much as I did when I was in Los Angeles but I can always travel to important events.

 

JL: I have to think that the internet has had a big impact on how you work. After all you contacted me as a result of a review on my website.

 

LH: It most certainly does, especially as more and more print publications become defunct.  I think the majority of progressive music lovers are getting their news about new releases through websites, blogs and internet radio programs.

 

JL: Do you work only with established labels?

 

LH: I only work with independent labels. ;)  Some are more established than others. Many are the artist's own label.  For me, it's really about the music.  If I believe in the artist and their music, I'm happy to handle them.

JL: What if some independent artists are looking for your help? Are you open to them getting in touch with you and working out a deal of some kind?

 

LH: I love hearing new music and am happy to consider new bands and artists.

 

JL: For independents to make the right impact with you and/or the established music community what advice would you give them?

 

LH: It's really all about the music.  There is a place for press kits and visual image but really it comes down to the music.  Work on your craft first and foremost and do what is true to you.

 

JL: We've seen and are seeing lots of changes in the music industry. As someone who works with labels, with artists and with the media where do you see things going in the future? Is it getting easier for artists in specific niche genres like progressive rock to get heard?

 

LH: I would say yes and no.  I think the internet has created a wonderful progressive rock community where fans can find out about new music that is available.  There's a plethora of internet radio that plays progressive artists so I would say in that way it is easier than in the past to be heard.  Yet, the mainstream press continues to shrink and is increasingly hard for independent artists to have any representation in.  There are some great advocates out there in the mainstream press like Barry Cleveland at Guitar Player but the space is so limited they can only cover a small amount of progressive music.

 

JL: Lastly then, I have to ask my desert island disc question. If you were stuck on a desert island what five discs would you want with you and why those particular discs?

 

LH: This is the incredibly hard question that all music fans ponder.  

Here's what I'm thinking today:

 

Kate Bush -- The Dreaming -- This was how I discovered Kate Bush, who is one of my favorite artists of all time.  It was a great find for me as I was in a used record shop in Seattle while in college, just flipping through the piles looking for something to stand out.  I was completely intrigued by the cover and had no idea who she was or what she sounded like.  I completely wore out that disc in college and ended up collecting everything she has done.

 

King Crimson -- Red -- This is a relatively new find for me than probably most Crimson fans.  I actually got into Crimson when I was doing college radio and playing Beat and Three of a Perfect Pair.  It wasn't until I started working with them that I heard the earlier material.  This has become my favorite Crimson record after much listening to the entire catalog.

 

The Clash -- London Calling -- I loved the Clash and their political commentary.  "Clampdown" remains one of my favorite songs of all time.

 

Beatles -- Abbey Road -- It's hard to decide which Beatles album gets the nod but this will remain my favorite for the suite of songs ending the album.

 

Rage Against the Machine -- Rage Against the Machine -- Brilliant political commentary in a powerful musical setting.  "Take the Power Back" is still relevant today.