MTV Europe, 1993-03, by:
BS: ...all the theaters you played at were always old theaters in the center of all these towns, which brought you into contact with the local populace in a way that when you play the arenas which are always out of town on the highway somewhere, just a big building, you don't quite get the same feeling of, you know you miss some of the local feeling when you play arenas. Even the open-air places for the most part are built 5 to 10 miles out of town. It's funny, I hadn't played here in a while but you come back, the minute you set up in a town or in a theater like this, you automatically sort of engage, you know.
MTV: It all comes back?
BS: Yeah, it's nice, I really miss it. I wanna do a theater tour at some point.... A sense of history, as well, you know, it feels different to one of these modern places. There's different levels of engagement. You know what happens is, when you start you?re playing clubs and clubs are usually situated in living areas, and the theaters are too, but when you move out of the theaters and head into the arenas or something then you're adrift in the wide open spaces and this just goes on and on, and if there's something I miss, I miss that experience of playing on the college campus, in theaters, in clubs. You're always in the mix of that locale, you've always got a real feeling for whatever personality that place was and you lose that when you get into the bigger buildings, I guess you pick something up that's slightly different, but...
It's nice. This is a nice old theater. I played here when I was 28, on and off a little bit. I played here with Southside a couple of times. Usually when I'm home, I come out here and play in the clubs because there's a whike sort of atmosphere. Like the clubs are really important places. Playing on a Friday and a Saturday night in a club in a certain place *means* something, you know, and it's nice to stay connected to it but it's not quite the same thing going in, sitting in. I do it around here, I don't do it if I'm out west or something, but you know, I miss it, I do miss it. This is a nice old theater here. Anyway, I'm blabbing on already!
MTV: OK, to carry on with the same theme about playing small places: the album coming out in Europe, the Plugged album, the question everyone wants to ask is, "Why did you plug in for that small show?"
BS: Gosh, let me think! How did we lead to that? I think I'd played acoustically at the Christic Institute Benefit, I really loved it but played entirely by myself. When we were getting ready for the Unplugged, I rehearsed with the band a bit, and I didn't have... the bottom line was I really didn't have the time to sit around and get a centered feeling about exactly what I was going to do with all this new material in this particular setting, and actually before I'd even attempted to, Jon had wanted to do it with the band, sort of almost from the beginning. Once we'd really started to really think about it, he was sort of, "hey, let's do it with the band, no one's done it with a band and that's what we're doing right now, we're out there with a full band."
I haven't actually been filmed very much with a band; I've been playing for a long time but there's not a lot, we just never filmed ourselves very much and he thought it would be more exciting to do it with the band than it would be if I just got up and worked out the arrangements by myself or something or other.
The last tour we did we toured 6 months and what was a little unusual was that we didn't have breaks that we had in the past, where you sometimes have a month off and you'll go back on the road. We had, I think, a couple of weeks off before we were gonna do Unplugged, and so I started to fiddle around with it, and he'd say, "No, let's do it with the band," so finally I said to myself, "Well, alright, I know what I'm doing with the band right now with this bunch of music. I don't know exactly what I'm gonna do, if I do it by myself at this moment," so I said, "OK, we'll do your idea," and that was really pretty much how it came around. I guess he talked to the fellas over at MTV, they seemed to think it was a good idea, that's what he told me anyhow!
MTV: No, I spoke to Alex Coletti, the producer, just afterwards and it was a great show and it transfers well on to TV, doesn't it? It works.
BS: Yeah, I was really happy. Like I said, we hadn't filmed ourselves very much. The fella that produced the show and the people who worked on the show did a great job. I was really excited about the whole thing; if somebody watched it at home, it maintained its warmth and intensity, its soul, its feeling and that was something I was always worried about with going on television. I'd never performed live on television until we did Saturday Night Live, and that's just recently. Fifteen to twenty years, I never did it.
MTV: No TV?
BS: I didn't trust it. Everytime I saw somebody I like on TV, with the exception of very few acts, I felt it was fundamentally cool. I mean a lot of what our band was about, we didn't particularly strike a cool pose; I think it was more -- heat, intensity, warmth -- and so we just, we went out and did our shows. I also like the idea of people coming out. In the old days, to go see a band you had to go out and see them; you'd go down to a theater or a club. So I was hesitant, but I was really happy with what they did, I was really excited about it actually.
MTV: The decision to bring it out as an album in Europe, when did that come about?
BS: That was Jon once again, you know. He mentioned that the European record company was interested in releasing this record and so I said, "yeah, that's fine," and I thought the band played well and it was a chance to... it, it's kind of a summary of both records on just one thing, it gave people the chance to hear the music again in a slightly different fashion, and that's important to me.
MTV: In a way, ?Nebraska? was your "Unplugged" album, wasn't it?
BS: Yeah, I did that, that happened by accident. I had planned to do it with the band and it ended up that those were the best versions. At some point I want to do an acoustic tour. I wanna go up, probably by myself I think. I really enjoyed playing that way at the Christic Institute and I wanna go out in the theaters and play just by myself. So at some point, if I thought of coming up with a record which would then put me in that direction at some point or other, that's what I wanna do.
MTV: This time of course, you're coming back to Europe to give us another taste of it. Why the decision to come back to Europe again, did you just enjoy touring Europe last time?
BS: Yeah, they were some of our best shows. We just had a great time the first 6 weeks that we were over there. The audiences were very responsive and there seemed to be a real openness towards the new music and the different band. That was exciting. We only did 6 weeks, and we played just a little bit here and there, I think we only did 15 or 16 shows, we didn't play that many. European audiences have been really supportive of my music for a long time. Some very, very loyal fans you know. You can go back to England, Sweden, Italy, Spain, very passionate fans. Incredible. I didn't really get a chance to play there. We did 6 weeks, then we were here. They generally supported my new music better than in the States. We always planned to go back pretty much from the beginning. We took a break in December and finally we sorted out the schedule, how we could do it. So I'm looking forward to it.
MTV: Does it surprise you how your European fans really understand the lyrics? It's steeped in American imagery, you grew up there, but talking to fans in Stocklholm, when I was there, and people in Europe generally, they really do understand where you're coming from.
BS: Yeah, from what I found out, somebody would know some English and they would translate it for their friends. That's what fans would tell me. I think they just got an overall feeling of what I was writing about and what I was trying to express. I don't know if it felt exotic at all. Maybe. Very, very emotional audiences. So it was great that we started there, because we were greeted with a real openness that we really appreciated, plus there was a lot of different generations. There were people my age in the crowd as well as fifteen, sixteen year olds. There was a real broad expanse of people coming out to see us. That was great. I enjoyed that a lot, it was meaningful to me at this point.
MTV: Are you going to change anything this time around, are there any big changes?
BS: There's not got going to be any big changes. I think, basically, the show I finished up with in the States was something I felt pretty good about. I don't know what the balance of old to new material was in the end; it varied from night to night. Usually it fell somewhere in the 50-50 category, sometimes more, sometimes a little less. We're rehearsing now, so we may come up with a few different things to do, but basically it will probably be pretty similar to the show we ended up with in the States. I think it was something different to the one we did in Europe. When we started, the second set was quite different from what I remember, but I really haven't had a chance to play that show to most of my European fans, so I'm looking forward to doing that.
MTV: It's different this time that there aren't the 2 albums to promote directly. Obviously you've got the Plugged LP coming out, but people tend to judge you by your last record as to where your state of mind is, and how you're feeling, because each record you bring out is like a snapshot. So what mood are you in at the moment?
BS: My mood is good. I think getting back out and playing has been good. I was off for quite a while, a period of about 3 or 4 years, where I didn't do very much; I worked on the record we released a while ago, set up a home life, things I hadn't had in the past. That really broadened my..., just made everything more meaningful in a lot of different ways. If I'm trying to do anything at the moment, make some connection, to put down some roots... I suppose that's what it is in a certain fashion, and try to take some of the ideas I've expressed in my music and make them live in my life rather than just singing about it.
It's tricky at the moment, I'm trying to fill out my life in a way so that what I do musically and the way that I live interconnect in a fashion that will be more meaningful for me and then hopefully allow me to... Hey, I'm happy that my children can take what they want out of it. At this point in my life I think I'm concerned about reaching those things and doing those things. It's a little bit abstract maybe. I suppose that's what I'm actually concerned about and that also means integrating my work. I don't want 2 or 3 years going by and I'm not playing. It doesn't make sense because I played since I was young, and I think I want to play more consistently, probably for shorter periods of time, but more often and maintain a connection with my audience in a more consistent fashion, if I can do that. Just sort of complete some circle that I have, I guess, inside my head or inside your soul or wherever you feel those things. I'm just excited about playing again, you know. We had a great time with the shows we played in Europe when we started and there was a certain sort of opennes. Like I was saying, that meant a lot to me. It was a certain sort of directness that I'm looking forward to coming into contact with again.
MTV: The impression I got with talking to you and reading stuff, that last time around with the new band you sort of came to terms with your private life as opposed to your rock-and-roll persona, and that in Europe we understand that a little better than they did here at home.
BS: That may be the case. I keep returning to the word 'openness' and maybe that's what I mean in some fashion. I felt somewhat of a greater receptiveness to movement and change, so that was important. It was, sort of... there wasn't a subtext in the shows or in the air when we were over there. So it made it a great place for us to go and begin, I think that was one of the reasons why I wanted to go back. I got off the road and sat around and started to work on some new music and I said, "hey, it would be great to get some new music out relatively quick, I don't know if I can tour and do that," but basically I sat around! The thing was I felt I gotta, hey those people were good to me you know, and so let's go and play. That was part of what made us commit to going over and working some more and connecting up again.
MTV: How much do you like this process, not this interview, but the rehearsal side of it? Do you enjoy getting back with the band and trying out ideas?
BS: Yeah, it's fun. It's like the particular band I've been playing with were great musicians but they were also just nice people, you know. There's not a whole lot of tension, it's just pretty enjoyable. The beginning of the tour was tough, but it always is. Anytime you haven't played in a long time, you're afraid again. It's like, all that stuff comes back and it's scary. All of a sudden there's this big ?I DON'T KNOW?. Once you've played a set amount of shows it's amazing. You can not see people for a year and in 15-20 minutes, it's like riding a bicycle, it just kinda comes fluching right back.
This is actually less of a rehearsal, you know, it's something to enjoy. We're going to play to some local people. It's something that just warms you up and it's fun to do. It re-acquaints everybody a little bit. There's not that much that's needed after you've done about 80 shows already, that really stays with you.
Yeah, I like it, I like being a musician; the smell of everything, the guitars, the amps. I think that it's kinda like a situation where I feel a little looser right now. When you have this big, big spotlight on you it can end up feeling pretty oppressive. It can be, I don't know if 'intimidating' is the word, maybe so, but there becomes so many strings attached to everything and when it's less bright you just have more room to move. There's more room to move, or more room to be yourself in some fashion, which was important to me when we went out this time. That was something I wanted to get a handle on and I wanted to feel a certain kind of freedom I think, which is what I always pursued music for on the first place. Some fulfillment of your, I don't know... some ideal. I think the dynamics that occur with different levels of success are all different along the way. There's always something you win, and always something you lose. It's never exactly what it seems, but I've enjoyed all of it, generally, on a daily basis. Things are pretty nice right now.
BS: Yeah, we're OK.
MTV: Yeah, I could go on for ages, that was very interesting! I think we've covered, looking in terms of letting people know where you're coming from now, coming back to Europe. I think we've covered it, don't you think?
BS: Yeah, I mean, like I was saying, it's the fans. They were really responsive and really good to me when we came over the first time and that meant a whole lot after having been away for a long time. All the different changes and stuff. That way, like I said, it gave me a certain freedom and certain room to move and, hey, just the ability to change, to move over here a little bit, move over there, do some different things. I think in my job you can get so locked into a particular image the people have of you. Everybody, after you've been playing for 15 years, has a very specific "you" that they want you to be the "you" from nineteen-so-and-so this time.
However, the only way you can remain vital and remain alive is just be who you are at any particular moment. There's a pact between the audience and the musician, where people have to allow that in some fashion, people have to make room for it and have to allow it and that's always tricky. As you see a musician's career move along, that's the best thing an artist and audience can do for each other, leave that sort of room, but people invest very heavily in different parts of your career, like "you shouldn't have done it". It starts from the very beginning, but it picks up quite a lot of intensity as you go along. So the places where you feel loose and open, where it feels good... and I got a lot of that feeling when we were overseas the last time. People responded to the records in a way that was really satisfying for me, because they were real, kinda statements of what I know, of what I've learned, this is how I have grown up, this is what I see from here, hey that's what we've got to give, you know, that's what we've got to give.
MTV: Bruce, thank you very much.
BS: OK, my pleasure.
MTV: Looking forward to having you back in Europe touring.
BS: Yes, I'm looking forward to coming back.
MTV: That's the thing about interviews, because really what you have to say is in your music.
BS: Yeah, but you have to extrapolate on it you know.
MTV: People like to hear it, see the person behind the song.
BS: Yeah, that's the whole beat on it. Fundamentally I thought musicians played music because they couldn't speak, they couldn't verbalize in some fashion or had some difficulty in communicating, but at the same time, musicians like to speak about themselves.
MTV: It's all part of the expression.
BS: It's strange, that's the other side of it, artists just love to speak about themselves!
Last March, before the Count Basie show, Bruce sat down with a reporter from MTV Europe for an interview. A few brief snippets from that interview aired on MTV in Europe. The folks at Badlands in England were able to acquire the entire video of the interview which they transcribed and printed in their last issue of For True Rockers Only (the first few seconds were missing on the video).