“I TAUGHT Basquiat to do this,” says American songwriter Lach, filling in the outline of his name in chalk on the board outside Henry’s Cellar Bar.
Is he joking? Probably – but you never know with this New York musician and storyteller, now staging happenings in Edinburgh.
Lach, founder of the Anti Folk movement, a classical pianist who turned his back on Beethoven when he heard the Sex Pistols, fostered acts including Beck, Regina Spektor and the Moldy Peaches.
Too punk for folk and too folk for punk, his freewheeling adventures can now be heard in The Lach Chronicles on Radio 4 – beginning tomorrow with The Night Dylan Came. Episode two is about the rock band Kiss.
Lach’s stories are warm, poetic, rhythmic, funny and full of accidental meetings with rock stars, artists, supermodels, Hollywood actors and Colombian coke dealers. Lach thought everyone’s life was like this – just as he thought everyone, like him, had music constantly playing in their head.
He moved here two years ago with his wife and young son.
“I just decided I wanted to leave New York,” he says. “I wanted somewhere new. I didn’t know where. I had all these giant fingers in the sky pointing to Edinburgh.”
Although at first he took a break from clubs, walking into the dark grimy embrace of Henry’s Cellar Bar was like “putting on an old comfortable pair of jeans”, he says. He now runs three nights there – the Antihoot open stage, Songwriters Cellar and the Antihoot Radio Hour, a show within a show inspired by Jack Benny with a regular cast including comics Garry Dobson and Keara Murphy. The sound man is Brendan O Hare of Mogwai and Teenage Fanclub.”
Lach shrugs when I ask how these people came together. “I think musicians and artists have a tendency to gravitate to where the campfire is. I don’t approach this as a bar, I approach it as theatre.
“It’s what my thing is – making a scene.”
Friend and radio producer Richard Melvin, who once cornered Lach in a car park to make him come to the Fringe, hopes the Chronicles will shine a light on the man himself. “He’s had a part in so many other people’s careers. It is time for people to start seeing Lach for who he is.”
• The Lach Chronicles can be heard on BBC Radio 4 on 17 July at 11pm, and then on 24 and 31 July and 7 August.