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Sunday, February 14, 2021

Bruce Moody - Forever Fresh!

Today, Bruce Moody consider himself one lucky power pop survivor from the original heydays of an era that has long since passed.

Over the years, his musical adventures have taken him on an amazing journey through the music maze to places he never dreamed of going and it allowed him to meet many of his musical heroes. Highlights include chatting with Paul McCartney on the phone, doing shows with Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, A Flock of Seagulls, Sparks, and also bowling with members of The Go-Go's and Blondie. He also worked with Buddy Holly’s producer and manager Norman Petty at his studio in Clovis, New Mexico where Holly recorded his greatest songs. In fact, 
Norman Petty was the one who inspired him to write more songs and to release his first record which turned out to be the "Fresh Out!" EP.

This CD album "Forever Fresh!" is a collection of Bruce's power pop tracks from 1979 to 1986, many unreleased until now. This album has 23 songs, all of which have been meticulously digitally remixed and remastered exclusively for this release. The deluxe gatefold package contains liner notes and a website address for lyrics, the players on each song, recording dates and studio information.

01) For the viewers of this blog who would not know you, What would you tell about you and your musical background to introduce yourself?

Although I actually started playing music in bands as far back as 1968, I seem to have had the good fortune of always finding really good musicians to play with and that’s always made me a better musician.  After playing in many copy bands for years in the clubs, I became interested in writing my own songs around 1977/1978.  

I started recording song ideas at home on a four-track reel-to-reel tape recorder in order to perfect the songs before going into an eight-track professional studio that costs money. In 1979, I recorded a group of five or six songs at Amphion Studios in Houston.  I didn’t really have a band at the that time so I asked some of the best musicians in town to help me record the songs.  Although Amphion was an eight-track studio, I still had lots of little ideas for guitar lines, harmonies and percussion things I wanted to include in the songs.  

I ended up playing and singing about nine different parts on every song, including my normal stage instrument of bass guitar.  Three of those six songs are on the Forever Fresh! album.  There’s a musical biography on my website, along with lots of photos, song lyrics and details of the players on each song.

02) Can you also introduce the other musicians who participated in the recordings? Are those the guys pictured on the inner sleeve of the CD? What instrument were they playing? Were they part of your usual touring band or were they guns for hire?

> Wow!  You have to remember that these songs range from 1979 to 1986 and I played in four different bands during that period.  The main players on the songs on the album are Rick Richards on drums and harmonies, Danny Kristensen on guitar and harmonies, Keith Lancaster on Keyboards, Doug Hines on keyboards, Terry Carolan on guitar and harmonies and Richard Morant on guitar and harmonies.  There’s a complete personnel listing of who played what on each song on my website.  Danny, Rick and I have always been the real nucleus of all my original music bands, which includes both in the studio and live shows.   The guys on the inner sleeve of the CD are Danny Kristensen, Keith Lancaster, Rick Richards and myself.

03) About this 23 songs collection "Forever fresh", what can you tell about the recording process? Was this a "live" in the studio recording or a track by track recording with lots of overdubs?

All of the above, really.  On the recordings where time and money were big considerations, we’d try to only use two tracks, play the basic track together live in the studio, in a nice stereo spread and then use the remaining six tracks for overdubs.  I would sing the lead vocal, sometimes during the live take but on a separate track, just in case I screwed something up and had to fix it later without making us have to do another entire band take.  

On some of the earlier songs, I sang most of the harmonies, mainly because I already had the blend I wanted in my head and I knew the parts.  On those songs, we’d usually end up bouncing down four tracks of vocals down to two tracks, in stereo, and then there would be four more tracks left to put down a doubled lead vocal, each on their own tracks, and then two more tracks to do overdubs, like an extra rhythm guitar with a lead part on one track and either a keyboard part or percussion part, like a tambourine or something, on the last available track. If we’re rehearsed well, I like having the band play live together on the main tracks.  You can really feel the energy in the takes on this album where we do that!  That said, I’m playing all the instrument and doing all the vocals on “I Feel Strange”, “The Closer I Get” and “Missile Envy”.

04) If you were to record new material in 2021, would you use the nowadays digital recording
technology or would you keep working only with analog machines in analog studios?

That’s a great question.  Probably some combination of both digital and analog.  It really comes down to feel.  Sometime a digital drum part can sound so stiff and regimented that it dehumanizes the feel of the song.  When you play with a live drummer, there’s a slight ebb and flow to the song that’s more natural.  Of course, playing with Rick Richards for all those years really spoiled me!  The guy was always rock solid, unless you asked him to play a sloshy hi-hat on the back beat during the chorus or something.  Transferring basic analog tracks to a DAW works fine, though.  I also prefer to actually play keyboard parts in real time, all the way through with the track, verses looping or copy/pasting all the parts.  

Recording the overdubs in the digital world gives you so much instant flexibility as far as tones and effects go. It’s a very convenient medium and there are some great tools and plug-ins out there. In some instances, though, to my ears, what’s left of them anyway 😊, there can be a certain “warmth” missing sometimes that digital tools just cannot duplicate, especially in the guitars.  You just have to experiment and see what sounds best to you, I think.  Some of the digital plug-ins for vocals do nicely replicate that vintage warm tube sound you get from the old analog compressors.  Terry Carolan turned me on to the Abbey Road mixing console plug-in and we used it every song on the album during the mastering process. 

05) How would you describe the music you're playing?

I like to start out with a nice melody and lead vocal so that I’m working with an actual song verses writing something off a digital drum beat with a repetitive guitar or keyboard riff or something like that.  There’s nothing wrong with that. I just like coming up with a nice lead vocal part with an interesting melody first and then adding some cool harmonies.  That’s what inspires me when I’m writing.  Although I don’t have an actual band right now I still like to work with song ideas as though I’m writing for a band. 

06) What is/was your favorite topic/topic that came easily when you wrote a new song?

There’s always to “go to” subject of relationships and other personal life experiences.  I like to write about different things, sometimes putting the real meaning or inspiration cloaked between the lines, so to speak. But sometimes not.  I do like to play with words and I take great pride in the lyrics. There’s a sort of different sounding song for me on the album called “Secret Place”, which is about me dealing with depression.  

I literally wrote the entire song in about 15 minutes; words and music.  It’s been cathartic for me to just lay that out there.  Maybe it’s helped someone else, too.  I don’t know. “Secret Place” was featured in an Australian independent movie a few years ago.  There’s also a song on the album called “Above Suspicion”.  I’d been to a classic movie double feature back in 1983 that showed both “Above Suspicion” and “Double Indemnity”, both starring Fred MacMurray.  I ended up using the title “Above Suspicion” for the song, but I used the subject matter is from “Double Indemnity”, which I thought was fun!   

07) Do you have a video on youtube featuring a track from this collection?

There’s a very simple still images only video for “At The Rock Club” on YouTube right now.  There’s also a video for “She’s A Liar & A Spy” out there somewhere, but I have one of those awful 1985 shag haircuts in it!  Thankfully, the copy I have isn’t very good, as it was probably saved from an old VHS tape.  It might be best to leave that one in the vault!


08) Way back in the days, what could concert goers expect at a Bruce Moody gig? Were you playin' any famous cover songs during the gig?

Our shows were always very high energy with lots of three and four-part harmonies.  Having played in so many bands over so many years, I’ve played a ton of copy songs ranging from The Beatles, of course, The Cars, The Police … There’s even a sound check song on YouTube somewhere of my shortly-lived band Artisan playing “Yours Is No Disgrace” by Yes!   

09) Are there any bands/artists in USA  you considered yourself close to musically speaking, back then or now?

1960's Top 40 radio in the US was very cool!  Back then, The Beach Boys harmonies were, and still are, fantastic!  I’ve always liked The Association, Chicago; bands who wrote great melodies with lots of vocals.  These days, I love Elbow, especially their song “Lippy Kids”.  The way they approach their song arrangements and instrument parts is fantastic!  There are a bunch of bands whose songs I really like these days. But the tunes stream by so fast that I forget to look and see who it was!  From a pure songwriting aspect, I really like Fountains of Wayne.  When their bassist and chief songwriter Adam Schlesinger died last year from Covid, I did a video tribute to him and the band with massive help from Terry Carolan, Suzu Highmarts from The Highmarts and Atsushi from the band Gorilla.  The video is on my website.

10) To what kind of music did you listen to as a teenager? What were your favorite bands as a teenager? Name 3 bands/artists that you consider still have an influence on your own work.

The Beatles were probably the cornerstone of my early musical influences.  I instantly fell in love with The Who, in particular Pete Townshend’s writing and John Entwistle’s bass playing.  I also loved listening to Cream, Chicago, The Byrds and Hendrix when I was a teenager.  I actually saw Jimi Hendrix in concert on May 9, 1969.  I even met him before the show!  There was something about that guy that was quite other worldly.  I remember watching him play live and hearing notes coming out of his guitar that he didn’t physically seem to be playing!  Beyond him using a fuzz effect or a wha-wha pedal, sometimes there would be a few extra notes ringing out from those Marshall amps, almost like an overdub!  He covered a lot of ground on his guitar. The lead in “Waterfall” is an example of that. 

But I still love Pete Townshend’s writing to this day.  There’s such a great body of work to listen to. I got to correspond with John Wicks from The Records over the years and ask him things about how certain songs were recorded, how they did the harmonies, etc.  I also got to tell him how much I loved his songs before he died.  That was really special for me.  Elvis Costello is another one of those writers whose songs are great to listen to and dissect. For pure power pop pleasure, The Outfield’s Biggest Innings album is hard to beat.  

11) What are the plans for 2021 as far as Bruce Moody are concerned?

Later this year, Meanbean Records is releasing “At The Rock Club” on a vinyl compilation album
called Standing In The Shadows - Volume One.  Also, Terry Carolan and I will be recording some new stuff together, remotely of course due to Covid, probably starting this spring.  There are those who’ve been wanting me to come play in Japan for the past few years.  I would LOVE to do that!

12) Anything you wanna add?

Just to say thanks, Eric, for keeping us aging power popper’s music alive!


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