What was the first album you ever purchased and how do you rank it today? Not sure what the first one I bought with my own money was but the first CD I was given was Queen’s Greatest Hits 1 & 2…the double disc. My parents gave it to me for Christmas when I was maybe 7. It’s still one of my favs to this day. So many incredible songs.
Was guitar your first instrument? and what was your first guitar? First instrument I played was actually piano. My parents bought an old electric organ from a neighbor in England for me to practice on. I didn’t start playing guitar until I was 13 and my first guitar was a black and white Stratocaster. I was really into Clapton at the time so I think he inspired that choice.
What do you play these days and do you use the same gear on stage as in the studio? I’m really not much of a gear guy. I like to keep it as simple as possible so I play an American Telecaster for its simplicity and versatility. I own several guitars (most of them gifts) and I’ll occasionally switch it up but the tele is my go-to for studio and live. My amp is a Budda tube amp and I love that thing.
You’ve moved around a lot geographically, how do you think those contrasts of place & time have impacted your music or approach to it? Well being from England and having English parents who love music has definitely had a huge impact on me. I grew up listening to all the English greats (Beatles, Stones, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Floyd, the Police, Bowie etc…) I think my time in Texas allowed me to gain an appreciation for country music. I’m a HUGE Jerry Jeff Walker fan. But just in general I’ve always used music as a medium for making new friends in new places. Everyone loves music so it’s a great thing to talk about when you’re in a new place.
What’s your favorite part about being in a band; writing, recording, or playing out? I love all of it but writing is probably my favorite part. I tend to write in quick spurts. I’ll get an idea for a song and finish writing it in a day or two. I love it when it all happens at once like that.
What do you think is the tightest Beecher’s Fault elevator pitch (or did I just blow the interview?) “Wilco and Passion Pit had a baby named Beecher’s Fault”
Take us behind the scenes: what is the bands dynamic and how does that vary pre-show verses post? Ken and I tend to run the show. We are the main songwriters and founders of the band so we are the most intense and bossy. The other three (Lauren, Serge and Max) are awesome musicians and great friends so it’s really easy to work with them. They do a great job of tolerating us. Pre-show I’d say we are generally relaxed but a little intense and focused. Post show we all like to hang and have a good time.
You’re a Wilco aficionado of sorts — what are your favorite three Wilco albums? “A Ghost is Born” is definitely my favorite. I was introduced to it and Wilco in my first week as a student at Colgate University. It just really resonates with me and I think the songs are some of Jeff’s most expressive and personal. After that I’d have to say “Being There” and “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot”. Both of them are just packed with amazing tracks that I can listen to hundreds of times and never get tired of.
What advise would you give to a young artist or band getting ready to really ‘give it a go’? It’s way harder than you think. Don’t expect anything from anyone and make sure your band-mates are your favorite people in the world because years from now you’ll still be in the “struggle” with them.
You’ve been asked to do a tribute on the Grammy’s: who is the artist and what is the song do? Wilco, “The Late Greats”.
Well, my sister left some vinyl around when she went to college. Abbey Road, The Kinks’ live album, Billy Joel’s debut, and Springsteen’s The Wild, The Innocent, and the E Street Shuffle. So it starts in that pile, and probably with “She Came in Through The Bathroom Window” specifically. That vocal made the hairs stick up on my neck…after hearing lots and lots of classical music from mom and dad. The classical had an impact too.
2.0 – What was the first album you ever purchased?
REO Speedwagon’s High Infidelity. There’s no lying when answering this question, no matter the quality of the album in question. “Keep On Lovin’ You” had owned me on the radio, enough to make me ride my bike to the mall.
3.0 – What music is in your car right now?
It’s whatever’s on my phone, or maybe an Android tablet I use too. I don’t keep a ton on either of them. Whatever Tributosaurus is working on (Pink Floyd, Tom Petty) , plus: Funkadelic (America Eats It’s Young), Fleet Foxes, Wilco (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot Engineer Demos), Spoon (Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga), Grant Green (Sunday Morning). There’s a little more…I swap it out often. Also, Sound Opinions podcasts rotate.
3.0 – How did the Tributosaurus concept come about?
My brother Jon throws a big birthday party concert every year, and one year (when he was in the pit band for Blue Man Group), some NYC Blue Man extended family was there. They told me about something in New York called Loser’s Lounge. Every few months they got a wide array of NYC musicians together to do the music of, say, Burt Bacharach, and they’d all cover a tune or two doing their own spin. Brilliant. So I thought of doing that in Chicago, but clarifying it to be iconic rock and roll artists, and to do it as close to note for note as possible. The idea was to treat the rock canon with the same reverence and respect with which orchestras treat Brahms or Shostakovich.
4.0 – It must be fun to argue about which tunes to do by a given artists, is there a formula for Tributosaurus set lists?
Yes..there are five core members, and we each get 3 or 4 picks, depending on the set length we’re going for. Every once in a while we might say “well, this and that HAS to be in,” but for the most part the list ends up being a product of our individual tastes coming together. No veto is allowed either, so if I, or anyone, picks an absolute dog, you suffer through it. Of course, tunes you thought you hated always end up being appreciated. That’s one of the real joys of the thing.
5.0 – What five homage’s are you most proud of?
The first time we did Steely Dan, we surprised even ourselves. It kind of made us realize that absolutely anything was suddenly possible. Marvin Gaye gave me the best appreciation for the deconstruction/reconstruction nature of the project, because it took 15 or 16 people to re-create the deceptively simple Motown sound. Stevie Wonder with a huge band was a joy and an absolute party. The Replacements holds a place in my heart, because we were properly gritty, sloppy, and a little drunk, but nailed the stuff we had to nail in that great music. Queen last month at The Vic, with 1100 people singing along to “Bohemian Rhapsody”, is a beautiful memory right now. Those are the first 5 that popped into my head…there are many others.
6.0 – Did your confidence in your voice as a singer lead to your career in radio in any way?
Interesting. No..they’ve always been concurrent careers, one sometimes jumping ahead of the other. My dad was a sports guy, mom a music teacher and opera singer. My brother 10 years older is a musician; my brother 9 years older was a baseball player and sports fan. I’ve always been consumed by both, and done both. College was full of both. They inform each other far more than you might expect. Team and locker room concepts inform band situations. Musical narrative/lyrical concepts show up in game theories and radio production. There’s probably a book in there.
7.0 – As the resident rocker at The Score you have contributed many musical spoofs & bits, any personal favorites?
‘The 12 days of Bearsmas’ was a lucky and fun concept. We tried it last year too, and may this year, but it’s better when the Bears are terrible. 7 false starts, 6 prime time losses, 5 Cutler picks, etc. ‘The Hossa’ song to the Kink’s “Lola” became a Blackhawks favorite, sometimes played on the ice for their afternoon skate, and put on jukeboxes at sports bars in town. That’s pretty cool. Truly, I’m proud of the music you hear on our show in production, and as bumpers coming out of opens and back from commercials. The producers have good, varied tastes, in addition to stuff that Mac and I like. I have no doubt that you hear the most interesting, eclectic mix of music on our show that big city talk radio has ever seen.
8.0 – Musically speaking, where does the road part for you and Danny Mac?
Um, in about 1986 I think. The man loves his 70’s, and a touch of his skinny tie 80’s period. So I kind of have anything after that covered. In the vintages we do share, I go into soul and funk more than him. I like punk and new wave more than him. But I dig much of his taste, even if it’s a bit narrow. He loves the Stones, ACDC, Zeppelin, Alice Cooper. And he seriously LOVES it. You have to respect when someone is as passionate about it as he is. Plus, like so much with him, he’ll surprise you when you least expect it, and quote a lyric from Pete Townsend’s Empty Glass or XTC’s Black Sea. He turned me on to Todd Rundgren. As long as he doesn’t veer into UFO and Nazareth too much, we’re cool.
10.0 – What’s the best concert you’ve ever seen?
Wow. Peter Gabriel’s “Up” tour at the United Center, in the round was pretty great. Saw the So tour in 1986 I think as well…he’s wonderful live. The Pavement reunion last summer at Pitchfork was a wonderful night personally, with my buddy who shared the history with me, and my wife to be who was discovering them. But I’ll cheat and say Lollapalooza 1994. I had the full combo platter: moshing for the Beastie Boys on the lawn, up front dancing for George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars, I sat completely in love with Kim Deal & The Breeders. Even though I left during the unnecessarily loud Smashing Pumpkins, that day ruled. I heard enough from “Siamese Dream” to cap the show perfectly.
Congrats on BK3 Bruce, are you happy with how it has been received? I am very pleased with the CD and the reviews and the fans reactions. They could all tell I really put my best foot forward shall I say. It has distribution but at the same time you can buy it from me. What concerns me are the BK fans who don’t know about it! They are missing out.
What is your favorite hook on the record? So many really…. I think “No Friend Of Mine” has a great hook and John Corabi really sells the song with his vocals.
How does the writing process work for you? It is different all the time, but it does usually start with just jamming something on the guitar and things start to happen. When I collaborate, things can really pick up speed quickly and suddenly there is a song.
Gene’s son Nick Simmons sang on the single “Hand Of The King”, is there any irony in that? I guess you could say the title has something ironic in it! He did a great job and it was his lyrics.
You have had a long relationship with ESP Guitars, why ESP? They are really like the LEXUS of guitars. Quality and durability. I have been using them for many years now.
Is Brian May of Queen an influence of yours? He is one of the best of the best. What tone and note choice. YES.
Have you gone full-on digital or is there still a place for analog in your world? I have my turntable out now! But recording-wise it is digital. I do use lots of vintage gear to record though…
Do you have a favorite Beatle? I would have to say Paul for his amazing body of work and talent, but John is there only a fraction behind him.
Any tips on surviving a world tour? Don’t eat the mayo! Seriously. Take care of yourself, and pace yourself. Traveling is hard sometimes.
You are ‘tweeting’, how’s that going for you? Good… I don’t do obsessively like some, but I do update things that are going on for me. Not the “what I had for breakfast” kind of tweets! But people want to know what’s up ~