David Gans (tnf) Sat 1 Mar 03 10:32
Bruce, tell us a bit about your own history. Were you ever a professional musician?
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Sat 1 Mar 03 11:20
If you mean, have I ever been paid to play music, the answer is a resounding no. I was an amateur singer for a few seconds, I guess, entertaining (if that's the word) mainly some people in my building in Greenwich Village with my songwriting partner. I also dabbled quite ineffectively on the melodica, the harmonic, and the three string banjo. I gave up trying to learn piano after about an hour. I am, however, a professional lyricist, since several of my songs have been published and a few recorded, earning me upwards of $40 or $50 (but that's over the course of many many years). It was probably my singular lack of success at even learning how to play an instrument that led me to make a career out of talking to those who had a little more luck than myself at it. So I guess my instrument of choice is the typewriter and the computer keyboard. I can type upwards of 70-80 words a minute by now. Which makes it a lot easier to write all those articles and columns and books about musicians. Lately, however, I have revamped my lyric writing career and hope to add to or even double my lifetime earnings in that regard.
Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Sat 1 Mar 03 11:45
good luck with that! Would any of the lyrics you sold be available for us to peruse?
Scott Underwood (esau) Sat 1 Mar 03 13:35
I've been hopping around the book, contrasting the different types of stories, especially comparing the knowns to the unknowns. I wonder if you've ever had an insight into why some people make it and some don't. In some of the pieces, you get the sense of a person with incredible drive and charisma. In others, it's more lassez-faire, and you wonder if it was just dumb luck that kept this person from a job in tech support or rotating tires.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Sat 1 Mar 03 14:20
Re #28: Sorry, no lyrics available. They wouldn't mean much without the music anyway. Re #29: I think dumb luck definitely plays as a part as well as an innate blindness to reality. Complete, sustained, maniacal determination and the inability to see or have any other options also come into it. Having the nerve or the skill to make and keep and relentlessly follow up on a multitude of connections is a useful tool that they don't teach in school. Near total lack of self-consciousness helps, a thick skin, messianic belief in your own meager talents (compared to the Beatles, say, or Bob Dylan, or Avril Lavigne or Coldplay)and a big bankroll or, conversely, the willingness to exist on almost nothing factor into it as well. Then, it helps if you have the right sound of the moment, the right look, the right lawyer, manager, agent, friends, etc. The average person, as I would have told my neighbor, John Mayer,had he asked me at the age of 12 or 13 when he started to play guitar, simply has no chance. No chance at all.
David Gans (tnf) Sat 1 Mar 03 14:27
Wow. So true.
Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Sat 1 Mar 03 14:45
<29> Thanks for asking that. I was wondering that without even knowing it. Were there any interviews that you did that you were either very impressed with the person's character; or one where the person seemed completely different than your expectations or their public persona?
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Sun 2 Mar 03 05:38
In general, I was always a little surprised by how deeply involved the more successful rock stars were in the art and craft as well as the business of making music. Invariably, the Heavy Metal guys like Gene Simmons, Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of Metallica, Neil Peart of Rush were incredibly normal and thoughtful when you talked to them, as opposed to their sometimes over the top stageshows. The rapper, Kool Mo Dee was a complete revelation in his quirky enthusiasm. Keith Richards became more and more eloquent the more he drank. I had no idea Peter Tork of the Monkees had become such a New Age philosopher. Or that Robbie Krieger of the Doors was so insecure. Leonard Cohen was at least as mystical as I expected. While Harry Connick Jr. was a whole lot more severe than I would have thought. Frank Zappa was fairly intimidating. Lou Reed was completely intimidating. But with Andy Partridge of XTC I could have used a couch and an analyst's pad. Laura Nyro had some trouble focusing on the questions and her handshake left a lot to be desired. Steven Tyler was about as hyper as I expected, while Robbie Robertson proved to be a lot more droll than I figured. Peter Buck probably spoke for many of the people in the book when he said "I'm not a completely different person onstage 'cause I don't want to have to maintain that. I'm too lazy."
devious and sincere (kurtr) Sun 2 Mar 03 08:16
I haven't really followed Metallica, but I've defintely had the impression the guys were very comitted to their music, and to music in general. Hammett studies jazz guitar, and has for many years. From what I've heard about that, he's doing it the way a regular student wold do it, not as some star - in other words, he took some classes at a community college, he studies with a fine local jazz guitarist, but not with a jazz star. I'm often struck by ow some people become a lot more appealing to me after I've heard them interviewed. As Pollock mentions, a lot of the metal guys are very dedicated to what they do - I often have a mental stereotype of them that is unfair. My take on the book is that it brings out how a lot of the characteristics of being a working musician are pretty universal, cutting across a lot of styles. In other words, the guy doing all the bar mitzvahs and the guys from Metallica can both tell plenty of war stories and understand each other if they can get past the trappings of their respective styles and venues.
Jim Brennan: Pseud Monkey (jimbrennan) Sun 2 Mar 03 09:40
I'd have to agree with that. I'd like to believe that most musicians do what they do for the love of the music. Some of them may forget that at times, but I think it always has to be there. As far as Neil Peart is concerned, having been a Rush fan for decades, I've always known him to be a very introspective man. His lyric writing is a testament to that. I did often wonder if he was at all pompous, given the gravity of his choices of subject matter. When did you interview him? Both his wife and daughter died a few years ago, and I was wondering if it was before or after that.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 2 Mar 03 10:41
I love the reports in <33>, and I could make a similar list from my own ex- periences. I'll just tell one: I interviewed David Lee Roth when his solo album "Crazy from the Heat" came out, and it was hard work to get past the bigger-than-life front he puts on. I wore him down, though, and it was worth it: when I connected with the real guy in there, I liked him a lot. We dis- covered that we both were hugely influenced at a very early age by seeing "The Jolson Story." I think it's safe to say that there are people who are in this business foor the love of the music, and some who enact the rock'n'roll stereotype of get- ting into it for the chicks, and lots of variations. But I don't recall en- countering too many plain ol' dunderheads; it takes a lot of skill, talent, ambition, focus and determination to succeed in that racket.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Sun 2 Mar 03 11:16
RE#34: I think Kirk Hammett actually studied with Joe Satriani for a while and it may have been Kirk talking about that to all the magazines that helped launch Satriani's career. It is definitely an objective of the book to show how similar musicians are in their attitude toward playing, regardless of how different their music is. Paul Simon once said that he could relate easier to a Hungarian musician, say, than he could to an American dentist. What really interests me is what leads people to play what they play. I wonder if there are any sociological stereotype you could invoke to explain what makes one white Southern kid play country music, another bluegrass, another power pop, another punk rock and another to become a mellow singer/songwriter. Same with a kid from Detroit who falls into rap rather than metal rather than jazz. A surfer from California who plays modern classical music. Etc. Re#35: My talk with Peart was pre the tragedies that have befallen him. I did have the impression that Rush was a kind of rigid collective experience. So when he said, "The joy of creation is extremely overrated" I expected that was because he was trained to supress his emotions. It would be wrenching to interview him now about his losses. As an interviewer, I would hate to have to go take him there. But I'm sure it was a severe test of those powers of repression. Re#36 Sometimes you wind up getting the best stuff after you turn the tape recorder off. Then you have to switch it back on again. The biggest disappointment is when you think you have become friends with the subject, but there's really no way to pursue such a friendship. Sometimes you try to pursue a friendship anyway, and, at least for me, I've found it never works.
David Gans (tnf) Sun 2 Mar 03 11:26
> What really interests me is what leads people to play what they play. I > wonder if there are any sociological stereotype you could invoke to explain > what makes one white Southern kid play country music, another bluegrass, > another power pop, another punk rock and another to become a mellow > singer/songwriter. Same with a kid from Detroit who falls into rap rather > than metal rather than jazz. A surfer from California who plays modern > classical music. Etc. Wow, that would be a great study. I wonder iff anything like that has ever been attempted?
David Gans (tnf) Sun 2 Mar 03 11:29
> Sometimes you wind up getting the best stuff after you turn the tape re- > corder off. Then you have to switch it back on again. Assuming you haven't put it away! After one of my interfvfiews with Randy Newman, we waked together fromhis manager's offfice to the parking garage. I wish I had had my tape recorder rolling when he praised my vocabulary! (I had used the word "putative" in our conversation, which for some reason impressed him greatly.) > The biggest disappointment is when you think you have become friends with > the subject, but there's really no way to pursue such a friendship. Some- > times you try to pursue a friendship anyway, and, at least for me, I've > found it never works. Yeah, that's tough. I have forged some really good connections with muscians over the years, but in general it is (necessarily) a short-lived, but in- tense, conenction.
Jack King (gjk) Sun 2 Mar 03 11:37
<scribbled by gjk Sun 2 Mar 03 11:37>
Changes in attitude, changes in platitudes (gjk) Sun 2 Mar 03 11:40
Let's try that again (I messed up the above post). One of the funniest stories I ever heard was told to me by a guy I was interviewing for an article, about him. The story ended with, "But you can't print *that*!"
a monor quibble (chrys) Sun 2 Mar 03 14:52
The way each interview reads, the book comes off like a film documentary. (Which makes me long for photographs. Did photos accompany the previously printed interviews when they were originally published?) Bruce, you have the copyright for all but three of the pieces in the book. (Bob Malone, Liu Sola & James Durst.) What was up with those?
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Sun 2 Mar 03 16:28
RE#42: I think the book would make a great documentary myself. Another Standing in the Shadows of Motown. Know any filmmakers? (As far as the original articles, usually there was a typical press photo). Re. Bob, Liu and James: these were stories that came to me virtually complete, via the internet. With Liu, whose article originally appeared in Chinese, I adapted a previous translation. With Bob, who is compiling his own road diary, I suggested the topic and edited the final draft.James' wonderful story had relatively little editing.
devious and sincere (kurtr) Mon 3 Mar 03 09:51
Have you any impression as to genres or countries where the people were more upfront in the interviews? What I'm getting at is I've been struck by the number of British musicians I've read interviews of who come across as down-to-earth types. Likewise country musicians. I've heard the Brits are prone to put down those who get too high in their self-regard. Maybe it's similar with country guys. Do you have any similar impressions, or am I off base, as I would be more inclined to expect pretensious types in all styles of music, as well as straightforward types. I would like to have seen more jazz interviews, but that's a personal bias.
a monor quibble (chrys) Mon 3 Mar 03 10:01
I'm still reading, but so far have missed classical representation. I was hoping for a peek into that world too.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Mon 3 Mar 03 10:15
#43 & 44 Check the Lisa Kaplan interview for what I think is a revealing look into the world of classical music. Originally the book was heavily slanted to rock, and in rock, heavily slanted to heavy metal. So I tried to even things out with a handful of players from other genres. I had a great bluegrass/country interview with Sam Bush, but he never signed the release. He just doesn't like to sign things, I was told. I probably could have used it, but the publisher wanted to play it safe. Maybe someday I'll run it on my website, workingmusiciansbook.com. You might be able to do a complete book on each genre. Or a complete book on Working Actors, Working Comedians, etc. As far as pretention, devious and sincere, I think you answered your own question, the characteristic defies genre. Also, as far as the book, I tried to edit it out wherever I found it.
a monor quibble (chrys) Mon 3 Mar 03 10:37
>You might be able to do a complete book on each genre. Or a >complete book on Working Actors, Working Comedians, etc. Yes!
Berliner (captward) Mon 3 Mar 03 11:14
It could get as big as the Dummies series. Or, in the case of Working Writers, virtually indistinguishable.
Bruce Pollock (bruce-pollock) Mon 3 Mar 03 11:28
#48 Didn't I once publish a piece of yours on Stevie Ray Vaughan in the very first issue of GUITAR for the Practicing Musician?
Berliner (captward) Mon 3 Mar 03 11:56
Errr...possibly. Although he didn't really talk to me until after he sobered up, and even then it was Jimmie who convinced him I wasn't a demon.
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