I’ve not forgotten this.. A.J. on the Board threw down a challenge for me to answer some questions, and suggest I left it for the 20 Days project. I’ve been a little preoccupied, but now I’m sitting down to answer them on about two hours sleep in as many days, so this should be entertaining…
Thanks to those who contributed questions on the Board or by e-mail.
How/when did you discover Bruce? (AJ)
I hated music as a teenager. Absolutely detested it. It involved feelings for a start, which I’d long since trained myself to ignore in true British fashion. It just held no appeal. My sole passion was football. Early in 1986, the BBC started playing using some piano background music on their major sports programme, Grandstand.
No lyrics, which made it difficult to trace (this was ten years before the internet). But enough people wrote to the BBC asking whose music this was – enough for them to give an answer on air. Perhaps no coincidence that Bruce actually broke over here in the UK before he did in the States.
I don’t recall buying the cassette(!) immediately, and actually don’t think I brought myself up to date until 1990, when Night on the Town came out just in time for a long journey to Wales for a family holiday. I was hooked in by then.
What was it about his music that peaked your interest? (treah)
People talk about Bruce’s “signature sound”, and you know what they mean. There are a finite number of keys on a piano, they all play the same notes – but if you hear a particular chord, you know it’s Bruce. It’s a strange phenomenon, but you’re not often wrong. I remember hearing a kid called Tom Conway years ago and thinking that was either Bruce, or someone who wanted to be like him. Sure enough, it was Bruce.
Do you remember when you came up with the idea and what motivated you to start Bruuuce.com? (AJ)
I got the internet in 1998, and I imagine Bruce was one of the first things I went searching for. I was psyched to see that he had an e-mail newsletter, written by a nice lady named Melissa, and so I signed up to that. There was something called a “newsgroup” where people would discuss live shows they’d be to, or an upcoming record, rumoured to be called “Spirit Trail”.
Everyone seemed like a nice bunch, and so I wondered if they’d indulge me in a burning question:
“What’s your favourite Bruce Hornsby song?”
I had people e-mail me with their favourites, and would report back on a single web page that I set up, catchily named www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~sitwi. (It’s still there).
Soon after, my eyes and ears were opened to a whole network of people who actually recorded Bruce’s concerts – with his permission – and shared them around. I’d spent the last several years poring through Record Collector magazine for any bootlegs for sale of Bruce’s appearances on the King Biscuit Flower Hour, Westwood One etc, and maybe found two a year? Rosemarie Rey offered me some tapes at no cost, to start me off on my trading. What a wonderful community – I wanted to do what I could to help share the music.
If you were only able to attend one more Noisemakers show in your life, it could be at any venue, and you could pick the set-list in its entirety, where would the show be and what would the setlist be? (JF1)
That’s an almost impossible question to answer (and you can all blame Jeff for me deflecting this one to all of you, giving rise to the Dream Setlist project…)
I answered, as did everyone else, though – here were my picks, in no particular order:
Place Under the Sun, Soon Enough, Down the Road Tonight,Charlie Woody and You, See the Same Way, The Old Playground, Levitate, The Show Goes On, Great Divide, Across the River, Invisible, Harbor Lights, Line in the Dust, Sir Duke, Rainbow’s Cadillac, Swan Song, The Tide Will Rise, Pastures of Plenty, Swing Street, Resting Place
I can’t believe I missed out Continents Drift.
Where? I love the Jazz Cafe in London – you can reserve a table right above the piano.
At what point did Bruce learn about Bruuuce.com and contact you or you him about getting together? (AJ)
I believe through his brother Bobby. Certainly I spoke to Bobby before I did Bruce. I was going to a show in George, WA and Melissa arranged a backstage pass for me – apparently Bruce wanted to meet me almost as much as I did him. Then soon after, on another trip over, Bobby invited me for lunch. Of course, completely unknown to me, Bruce had arranged to gatecrash the dinner, even hours before he was due to set off on tour.
He later reached out through Melissa to ensure that I was kept in the loop, and I had free reign to share the music with others.
When was your first Bruce concert? (AJ)
June 1993. Bruce mentioned it in our phone chat on June 10 and remembers it clearly – his plane was delayed so he basically took a cab from Heathrow Airport to the stage.
Where do you get a lot of your material/inspiration/content for the website? (AJ)
You people! Rich Diakun coined the phrase Daily Dose, which drove this site for years until the great laptop crash of 2009. I lost a lot of music, but happily have retrieved a lot.
The setlists were Tom Daub’s until he could no longer maintain them, and Miguel Danielson, who ran the original Bruce website (even before the official one) gave me a lot of useful information.
Bruce’s assistant Patti, and of course Melissa before her, provides a lot of help, as has Bobby Hornsby. The band, and Bruce himself, are always so accessible. JV especially is a riot, and I’m always so thankful for his time.
What’s the furthest you traveled to see Bruce? (AJ)
That’s a story. George, WA. The day before the show I was in Washington DC, thinking I was in the right place. I didn’t even know there was a Washington state. I had a backstage pass at Bruce’s request… I booked a flight from coast to coast and landed in a remote village called Quincy. I couldn’t even call it a town. I think I walked over ten miles to the show, and grabbed a lift back from a friend of George Marinelli, who was also at the show.
Who are some of the other musicians/groups you listen to? (treah)
Two that come to mind share Bruce’s gift of improvisation. Chris Thile (or Nickel Creek, or Punch Brothers, which he’s involved with both) and Counting Crows. I caught Punch Brothers by accident at the Wolf Trap – I’m not normally huge on opening acts but Thile hypnotised me. HE sat in on mandolin for most of the Noisemakers set also and I’ve never watched anyone like that before.
If you could go back in time and experience any specific Bruce Hornsby show, which one would you choose and why? (JF1)
I’d have liked to have seen him played with the Grateful Dead. I came in way too late to go to a Dead show. Madison Square Garden just so I could take in a Knicks game the next day!
What’s the most rewarding thing about running the site? Or on the other hand, has anyone ever presented a challenge for you? (Mitsa)
I’ve met and conversed with so many great people over the years through the site. It’s good to be able to head over to a different country, and see people with similar tastes, and know we’re in for a good time. Some of the nicest people, I’ve never even met, and some only a handful of times… but when we do catch up, there’s already a terrific bond. I met Rich Diakun for the first time after maybe ten years of correspondence, and he drove me around town and showed me around. A number of people have done that, and even had me in their homes. If I can repay them somehow with some music, then it’s the least I can do.
On the other hand? I don’t like to talk badly of people, but one in particular sticks in mind. A musician who was rather precious, and I know he still visits so I won’t name him. Accused me of being “demented”, “overly-medicated” and “typically British in my humour”, which was intended as an insult. I’m sure I shouldn’t have found it as funny as I did. (The reason for his ire was that I’d failed to respond to his request to unsubscribe from the newsletter, which had fallen into my spam folder…)
What’s the most difficult thing about running the site? (MT)
I had a spate of attacks on the site from some virus which actually had nothing to do with my computer – it was on the host’s servers. I’d like to think that’s the end of that now.
Otherwise… honestly? The last few weeks. Just a few days into the 20 Days project I suffered a terrible loss which I still haven’t gotten my head around yet. I’ll leave that one there, but I hope things turn back to normal life for all concerned as soon as possible. The last few weeks have been exhausting, but this site has helped me to focus on other things and, really, relying on your generosity to help three such worthy causes.
Describe the Bruuuce scene and music in three words (Padge)
Don’t, be, silly
I hope that will do you… an awful lot of talking about me, which I’m not used to doing unless you’re my boss. But thanks all for taking the time to send in questions, and I hope there was something of interest to you.