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Articles Home » 2006 Articles » Turgon, Bruce - 2006 Interview
Turgon, Bruce - 2006 Interview

Interview with: Bruce Turgon
Written by: Gdazegod
Date: Jan 7th, 2006

(Note: this interview was prepared and ready to go before Christmas but was held up due to the inevitable delays over the holiday season)

The road has been long and winding. The stops along the way all too numerous and frequent. For many it is all in a days work. Particularly for the well travelled musician plying his trade on the road. You can include in that group; bassist, multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Bruce Turgon. Many of the readers here at GLORY-DAZE will already know of Bruce's exploits elsewhere within the rock music scene. For those who don't, let's back the truck up for a second and cast our minds to days gone by.

Bruce was born and raised in Rochester, upstate New York. He formed a close alliance with a kid called Louis Grammatico, and they became best friends and remain so to this day. That kid became better known as Lou Gramm, who would eventually lead the rock band Foreigner alongside mainstay Mick Jones, onto multi-platinum success. Before that however, Turgon and Grammatico hooked up in a band called Black Sheep during 1970. After toiling away for a few years, the band signed to Chrysalis Records. The first American band to do so. After releasing one album, the band moved to Capitol Records, and released a further two records in 1974 and 1975 before folding. While Grammatico became part of Foreigner, Turgon instead, moved out to Los Angeles.

While in the City of Lost Angels, Turgon hooked up with the likes of Nick Gilder, Aussie rocker Billy Thorpe, and of course the powerhouse HM band Warrior, whose debut album 'Fighting For The Earth' took the rock world by storm back in 1985. Then came the call from Lou Gramm to assist with his debut album 'Ready or Not'. Released in 1987 it spawned the hit single 'Midnight Blue'. A further solo album by Lou in 1989 ('Long Hard Look'), and then the 1991 colloboration between the pair resulted in a band effort called Shadowking, which also roped in ex Dio guitarist Vivian Campbell and ex Donnie Iris drummer Kevin Valentine. That album was pretty good and unique soundwise, something that Turgon kept in mind for later on.

Gramm moved back to Foreigner in 1992 as part of a reunion of sorts, replacing Johnny Edwards who had sung on the 1991 'Unusual Heat' album. By this stage, bassist Rick Wills had also moved on to Bad Company, leaving the door open for Turgon to occupy the vacant bass spot. He subsequently became a fulltime member, appearing on 1994's 'Mr Moonlight' album, and travelled extensively with the band for a good decade or so.

Now that Foreigner has a new lineup, Bruce has finally been able to commit time to working on his own solo project. This appeared during 2005 as the 'Outside Looking In' album, released by Italian label Frontiers. It's taken a good while for Bruce to fulfil his desire to release his own material, and I guess he'd be pretty pleased about it all.. 'Yes, it's been a great experience' says Bruce, 'and I'm gratified by all the positive response the album has gotten'. I read a recent review whereby former Black sheep member Don Mancuso's solo album 'D Drive' (Kivel Records) was also recently released. I asked Bruce whether there was some sort of pact among the ex Black Sheep band members (Lou Gramm excluded) about releasing solo albums later on in their musical careers? 'I don't remember signing anything' chuckles Bruce, 'I guess it's just time!'

Yes, time does catch up on you after a while, but we wind back to Black Sheep, and playing locally in Rochester. Goodness gracious, that must seem like a million years ago now? 'Yes, in many ways it does, but because it was our first foray into the music business, some of those life lessons and experiences were defining moments for me' Bruce explains. 'The memories remain fresh, and remain as pertinent information to this day. It has been a long road though.'

If I can wind the clock back a bit to the time you were in LA, you were associated with what has been described as the best heavy metal album to be released by an American band during the 80's.. and that was with Warrior ('Fighting For The Earth'). Musically, that's quite vastly different to where you were at with Black Sheep? 'At the time it didn't feel like that big a stretch' says Bruce, 'as Black Sheep were actually quite an aggressive band live. Warrior was not at all bluesy, but many of the dark, powerful textures were the same and there were some great songs for that time and genre, so there was much that I enjoyed about that band.'

Ironically though, Warrior were signed to a British label (10 Records). The band ventured over to the UK for a gig or two. Do you remember much from those days and that experience in particular? 'It was the first time I had been to Europe and it was a great time, although fast and furious. We did the BBC Top Of The Pops and the Marquee Club, which was a trip for me because as a kid, I had the famous poster of The Who performing there!'

Actually, if I can ask you this Bruce.. if someone came up to you and said, 'I know your name from somewhere', and they had a modicum of music knowledge.. what band/act do you think they would associate you with? (just off the top of your head) because there have been a few.. 'Well I think it depends on where and who. In the US, it would probably be Foreigner. In Europe I am probably more associated with Shadow King. But in Japan, it might very well be Warrior, Shadow King or Foreigner. In Australia and New Zealand, many people know of my work with Billy Thorpe. In the music industry, I'm most often associated with Lou Gramm's solo career because of the success of the 'Midnight Blue' single.'

We move into 2005, and a few weeks back, we threw the pen at a review for Bruce's new album 'Outside Looking In'. We commented on how it sounded similar to the Shadow King album, so that shouldn't come as a surprise to many fans of the band or Bruce's work. Regarding the material on the new album, I asked Bruce how far back do some of these songs go? 'The initial ideas for 'Walk Thru Fire' and 'Living A Lie' were developed in the early 90's in anticipation of a solo album that I never recorded' he says. 'The bonus track for the Japanese release, 'Walk The Walk', was an idea I started with Lou around '91-'92 for what was to be his next solo album. However, the version on 'Outside Looking In' is considerably different. The core ideas for 'Heart So Strong' and 'These Tears Must Fall' were written in the mid to late 90's, but have also been majorly revamped for this album. Everything else is new material.'

Because some of these songs go back about 10 or 15 years, I asked that question in particular, because of that strong Shadow King vibe still happening throughout the music. 'Yes' agrees Bruce, 'partly because that's just what I do in this genre of music, but also, it was the direction that the Frontiers label wanted to focus on for this record, as they felt there was an audience that would appreciate it.' But then again, you had a major hand in the composition of Shadow King's material.. if I recall? 'Yes, I wrote 9 out of 10 tracks with Lou.'

There is an interesting selection of players featured on the album: Ronnie Montrose and Denny Carmassi, who seem to be linked at the hip musically, plus well known names like Rocket Richotte (Stan Bush), Ricky Phillips (Babys, Bad English, Styx) and your Foreigner band mates Lou Gramm and Tom Gimbel. I take it you've known these guys on the various projects you've been associated with in the past? 'I have worked with most of them before. Denny and Tom Gimbel have both toured with Foreigner (Tom still does), Rocket and I worked together on Lou's '03 tour, and Lou and my history is well documented. Ronnie lives close to me and it was the first time for Ricky and I to work together although we've known each other for years. Mostly, I am proud to have them all as good friends and am grateful for their contributions.'

As a songwriter, Bruce has led a productive career in this arena, and his strong inclination for writing songs goes back as far as those Black Sheep days, and onward to his initial time in L.A. 'Black Sheep was my first experience at seeing songs actually come to fruition and get exposure' he says, 'but I had been developing ideas for a long time. My friendship and writing partnership with Lou was really the catalyst for me to focus on songwriting. When I moved to LA, I continued to hone my skills and had success, both in my own projects and with songs like 'Heart and Soul', which was on Prism's 'Small Change' album. It was during this period that I really began writing alone. I was actually in the process and had written a considerable amount of material for the next Warrior album when Lou called me to collaborate on his first solo album.'

Soundwise, there are a number of hi-tech keyboard arrangements on the 'Outside Looking In' album. How have you found working in the modern digital recording environment (a la Pro Tools, Cubase etc)? 'I love having all these tools at my fingertips as it enables me to explore any and all musical ideas. Previously, it was always a major undertaking to develop multifaceted songs and much could be lost along the way, but now I am able to capture new ideas at the point of inception and I find it an extreme luxury. However, for me, all of this technology has to be controlled by a good song idea.'

I guess this has enabled you to be a bit more expressive with your compositions? (i.e having the luxury to tinker with the songs without the hinderance of studio time). 'Absolutely' says Bruce in agreement. 'Particularly in the writing phase. It used to be a long, drawn out process where I would struggle to communicate ideas to players, but often never realize my initial vision for a song. In fact, the whole recording process was like that. You generally had to put some kind of band together and rehearse it, compromise on musical ideas so everyone could feel they had musical input, pay exorbitant studio costs, struggle with the mix, etc. All so you could often end up realizing only a small portion of what was originally intended. Computers and having my own studio have enabled me to follow the musical thread right through to completion and it can be a great communication tool when collaborating with other players.'

I suppose many of the other professional musicians and colloborators you are dealing with also have their home digital studios in place and similar pieces of technology, making it easy to combine and stitch in pieces of music? 'Yes, all of my friends do, and it's a great way to exchange ideas once you get an understanding of the technology.'

What does the future hold for you outside of your solo career? Any thoughts about getting involved in a band scenario again, perhaps doing something with Lou again? 'I have no definitive plans at the moment, but there are several exciting projects I'm looking at for next year. Right now, all my attention is on my album, although I am continuing to write. I'm not opposed to being in another band, given the right situation and I never hesitate to work with Lou. We'll see what next year brings.'

Talking of things Foreigner, Have you seen or heard the latest incarnation yet.. with the new boys Jason Bonham, Jeff Pilson, Kelly Hansen and co. I hear they are booked to play the 'Bang Your Head' festival over in Germany next year.. should be interesting! The question is: what is Mick Jones doing to the Foreigner name/brand? 'I haven't had an opportunity to see them yet' says Bruce, 'although I'm sure they'll be very good. It will be interesting to see what they record. It's one thing to emulate a fantastic, old song catalog live and another to put a meaningful personal stamp on the heritage of the band. Given Mick's guidance and the pedigrees of all the players involved, it should be good. We'll see if it's embraced by the public as a true Foreigner album.'

Back to your solo work. Do Frontiers have an option on any solo material from you in the future, perhaps for a second album? 'There is an option for another record. Once 'Outside Looking In' has run it's course, we'll see what the future holds.'

With Christmas and new year upon us, it might be time to chill out and take a break. What is currently in the Bruce Turgon CD Player or iPod at the moment, that is taking your musical fancy? 'Right at this moment I'm listening to Wicked Wilson Pickett doing 'Ninety-Nine and a Half (Wont Do)'. Great stuff.'

Were you expecting any fancy presents from Santa this year Bruce? 'I don't know - what were you planning on sending me George?.. lol'

And what about next year, what is in the works from Bruce Turgon for 2006? 'Much really depends on the outcome of 'Outside Looking In'. However, I do also have an opportunity to score a film later in the year as well as developing a very artistic project that I'm not at liberty to elaborate on at the moment. I've been approached to produce some younger bands and am considering it, depending on how the songs develop. We'll see.'

Ok, Bruce, thanks a lot for sharing your thoughts with us.. have a great Christmas and New Year, and here's hoping for another productive year in 2006.. cheers.. 'Absolutely my pleasure, George. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and all at Glory-Daze, and many thanks for your kind words and support!' - Best regards, Bruce.

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