Bruce Cohen Interview
SBS: Hey! My man! Bruce! Great to have you back once again brother, you’re practically family at this point! So before we crack into the music and all that good stuff, let’s get ourselves a general update from ya dude, how you doin’? What’s new in your world since the last time we talked tunes together?
Bruce: Great to hear from you again Jeremy! Family, yes indeed. Things are going well and doing fine thanks. Starting to get back to some normalcy here on the beach. Dining out, seeing some shows. Nice.
SBS: When I talked with you last year post-release of Six BC, you had mentioned that particular record managed to be unscathed by the effects of pandemic times due to the album being recorded mainly prior – but I’m guessing that wouldn’t have been the case this time around with 7 BC, we’re still livin’ through it all right now at this very moment as far as I can tell. You’ve made plenty of records in your lifetime there brother-man…certainly there had to be some kind of difference in making 7 BC as a result of what it’s like to live in the pandemic era, as opposed to how everything ran beforehand? Were there any specific challenges you faced in making this album that were unique to this experience?
Bruce: Well everything was on lockdown here in Miami Beach, so I couldn’t go anywhere during the height of the pandemic. Luckily, here on the beach, it’s always sunny and warm so I could go outside once in a while and take walks, or ride my scooter for some sun and air without being near any people. That was great for my mental well being and health. But the main difference was I was in total solitude while recording 7 BC. No distractions. Just me and the keyboards. Had plenty of time to work and listen to the tracks. The main challenge was keeping my sanity but I lost that years ago. Ha!
SBS: Let’s start with the broad spectrum of it all my friend. What was the most important thing you considered, focused on, or incorporated into the lineup of songs on your new album 7 BC?
Bruce: I recorded over thirty-three new tracks and I decided I wanted to use the longest ones of the group. So length was important and also that they should be completely different from each other. Plus I wanted to keep it to seven tracks in keeping with the theme and title of the album. And hopefully with more emotion.
SBS: If I recall correctly from the past interview, titles are just labels to remember the songs by and don’t often end up having too much of an attachment for you personally, but c’mon man, what am I supposed to do with “Where The Sidewalk Ends,” just let that slide by? I have that book on my shelf right here in the studio, proudly, and I’ve been reading it ever since I can remember being able to! You strike me as the kind of man that would love Shel Silverstein as well too, if I’m being honest with ya Bruce, and I mean that in the most complementary way my friend. Anyhow. Throw us a bone here – was there some kind of substantial thread that ties Shel’s book to this tune for you, or inspired it in some kind of way? Or did I just fall back into the classic Cohen trap of asking you about titles again?
Bruce: Sorry my friend you fell into one of my traps. The title has nothing to do with Shel Silverstein’s book. As you know I get most of my titles from movies and musicians who have inspired me over the years. Where the Sidewalk Ends is the name of the classic film noir from 1950 starring Dana Andrews and Gene Tierney. It was their follow up film to the amazing Laura. As much as I like Silverstein it was this movie that got to me so that became the name of the song.
SBS: Okay there big guy. So. “Frankie Machine.” We’re just straight-up trippin’ out here and having some fun, yes? I’ve heard you venture out to the fringes before my friend, but listening to “Frankie Machine” was like listening to you vibin’ on your own, rockin’ your synthesized jams without even worrying about whether or not we’ll all be able to keep up to ya! So I suppose the natural question is, do ya? It’s got a steady rhythmic core for sure, but it’s definitely got an experimental and adventurous thread to it as well – how much thought do you put in to thinking about what people can/can’t handle as listeners en masse, or does that ever factor in? I’d reckon that simply catering to the needs of the people out there looking to listen to easygoing tunes in the mainstream that don’t really offer anything new wouldn’t exactly be the best way to go about creating a genuine breakthrough in art and music, but at the same time, perhaps there’s a balance that’s required in there too. Whaddya think there Bruce? When it comes to a song like “Frankie Machine,” would you say that’s more for you, or for the people?
Bruce: I really never think about who I’m recording for, or who will like my music or not. I just play away and whatever comes out so be it. You can drive yourself crazy trying to please everyone. With “Frankie Machine” I looked to Miles Davis for inspiration, especially Bitches Brew. In fact, all of 7 BC was inspired from that album in one way or another. Plus I haven’t done an extended organ solo in eons. So it was a chance to stretch out and have some fun. As long as you have that solid bottom going you can do anything on top of that. Frankie is one of my fave tracks. Can you guess where that title comes from? It was Frank Sinatra’s character’s name in the film Man With the Golden Arm. The song sort of follows his character’s arc in the movie. A case where the idea of the song came from the story behind the film.
SBS: Obviously, as an instrumental artist, you gotta let the music do the talking. As a listener, I never assume that’s just an easy task for anyone, to get in the studio and recreate the thoughts, feelings, and emotions they’re looking to express through music, though I suppose for some it probably comes quite naturally too I guess. Or at least, aspects of that perhaps, maybe parts of the process come easier than others, so let’s go into that for a second here. Is there a particular emotion that proves to be tougher to pin down in your music as you’re making it than others that you run into? Or a particular gear, be it happy or sad or whatever, that seems to be harder to translate accurately into a song? Do you find your writing to be more about tackling something specific in this sense, or is it more about where the music is taking you at the time? If you do choose to take on a specific direction or sound for your music, is it as simple as setting your mind to it and mission accomplished, or are there areas you feel you struggle in?
Bruce: Great question. The music takes me to where I go, not where I want to take it. Very stream of conscience. Very Improvisational. The hardest track for me to work on was “The Quiet Earth.” Slow ambient is hard for me especially when it goes for over eight minutes. Don’t want to make it boring. But I think I captured the emotion on that track. All about being alone in the world. Once again the title comes from a great movie about that very subject. For that particular song the title came first and the music followed.
SBS: For myself personally, well, I’ll be real with ya Bruce, I’m a self-confessed audiophile, so just about everything you do is up my alley in some way, shape, or form if I’m being truthful, but I really ended up forming an attachment to “Dali Dance” from 7 BC – that’s an extraordinarily mesmerizing tune my man. I felt like I could get lost into this track like the best audible labyrinth I could wander myself into. What a journey brother! Truly. I ain’t gonna lie to ya, I don’t really have a specific question about this particular track so much as I’m simply curious about what you might be able to tell us about it when left entirely to your own devices and natural instincts. What can you share with us about “Dali Dance” Bruce?
Bruce: Thanks so much for the compliments Jeremy. “Dali Dance” is also one of my faves. If you listen closely the bass drum almost sounds like a heartbeat, with the droning synths on top representing the blood flowing out from the heart. That’s what makes it so danceable. It’s got that beat you feel in your chest. And the other synths weaving in and out are doing the “Dali Dance.” Once again inspired by a great artist and fellow nut.
SBS: Mind you, “Funkasaurus” deserves some major recognition for its excellence as well – that main melodic pattern you’ve discovered here is freakin’ exquisite my friend. And I suppose, even in the realm of Ambient/Electro, we’re still livin’ in a world where a new record requires some kind of a single or a gateway tune to pull the people out there into the album, so this is it then, right? Like, as in, we’ve chosen to go with “Funkasaurus,” because of all the millions of reasons that are so radiantly apparent as to why this would be THE tune to pull people in? This track is catchy AF Bruce, and it comes with a very high degree of accessibility and appealing sound that’s pretty much geared for everyone out there, and now that I’m taking a deep dive into the online world, I see that YES – it has been selected for the ol’ video treatment. At least partially I suppose – you went with about a third of the total song! So let’s see here, let’s see, what’s the question, I guess it’d have to be, what made “Funkasaurus” the natural choice to put out there as a single from your perspective – AND – if you’re gonna choose this tune, why drop a shorter version of it online as opposed to givin’ us the whole cut you know that we’ll be craving?
Bruce: I write and produce the songs with Theresa Marchione (at Tarock Music) as my third ear and she thought “Funkasaurus” should be the single, although a nine minute single mind you. So, like The Doors did with “Light My Fire,” or Led Zeppelin with “Whole Lotta Love,” she edited the song to a shorter length for the video. It gives the listeners a tease to what’s to come. A nine minute video would be a lot to take in all at one time. So watch the short video then listen to the original long track after. You’ll be surprised how it starts off and builds ‘til the end.
SBS: Everyone loves a happy accident when it comes to making music, and they tend to show up frequently in the tunes of those out there with an exploratory spirit like you have Bruce. Was there a song somewhere in the lineup of 7 BC that you felt captured a moment in time that was never intended, and essentially impossible to replicate as a result? Don’t get me wrong, I get that the notes or pattern might be able to be recreated – I get that – but, you know what I mean? I’m talking about those moments in time where you stumble in through the door, and soon realize that’s where you were always somehow meant to end up, and the next thing you know you’ve found an inspired moment in a song that captures the full essence of that specific time in an original way that playing it again never will. Anything like that occur in the making of 7 BC, or any happy accidents that you can point out?
Bruce: Well Jeremy, there are happy accidents all over 7 BC. “Frankie Machine” is a good example of that. It started out going one way and ended up going another. In “Crimson King Dub” there is a moment where I hit something wrong but the sound was so incredible I kept it in and kept going with it. Totally turned the song around. I hope listeners will understand where that song comes from and the spirit in which it was recorded. And, of course, “Florian” became a tribute song to the man. Didn’t start out that way but as the song progressed it became clear to me what was going on.
SBS: Two-part question for you, lol, not like all of these questions don’t have multiple questions within them, but this one’s intentional right off the drop. What would you say is the most innovative aspect of music in general over the past five years, and when it comes to your own music, what’s been the most important and essential ingredient to your own evolution as an artist that’s occurred in that time frame?
Bruce: Are you talking innovations from other artist or technical innovations? I’ll tell you Jeremy, and you may not believe me, but I hardly ever listen to music especially anything you would call new. So as far as innovations in music, sorry can’t answer that. When at home relaxing I listen to Miles Davis. That’s all the innovation I need. He still sounds way ahead of everyone even today. Folks are just catching up to On The Corner. And that was released almost fifty-years ago. And of course I throw in some Brian Eno, and my faves Velvet Underground, Roxy Music, and Joy Division. But as far as technical innovations go they are endless. A good example are the two Yamaha Refaces (the YC organ and the CS synth) I used to record the last two albums Six BC and & 7 BC. Small little keyboards with big big sounds. They were so inspirational to my recording new projects. I just acquired this new little box no bigger than 4″ x 4″ which has 4,000 new sounds for my CS, and 1600 sounds for the YC. So the hits just keep on coming.
SBS: What do you find you personally enjoy most about the public reaction to your music and the feedback you receive? How has it helped benefit your music throughout the course of your career? What separates a really nice compliment from a comment you’ll sincerely consider and take to heart?
Bruce: I love when someone gets it. Hint, hint. They understand what I was trying to achieve. I have always received favorable reviews right from the start. But they really don’t influence what I do. I always sort of marched to my own drum and will probably continue to do so. But it is nice to hear from folks telling me how much my music means to them.
SBS: This seat’s still warm here Bruce – it’s like you’ve never left my man – we’ve still got the SBS Open Floor here for ya, ready for you to say anything else you’d like to say to the folks out there reading. It is always an honor, a pleasure, and a privilege to talk tunes with ya brother, and whether it’s in a year, or right around the corner, you know I’m always looking forward to that next time we talk. Many, many thanks for your time, and congratulations on another notch in your legacy and your series of BC records! The floor is yours my friend – all the best to ya Bruce!
Bruce: First of all, Jeremy, thanks so much for your continued support of my music. It is so much appreciated and you have a great understanding of what I do. Your questions are always challenging and thoughtful. I just hope your readers have survived the pandemic unscathed and are in good health. It was a horrible almost two years of hell. And hopefully it will end soon. But once again it is music that saved the day, for me at least and maybe for some of your readers. Let’s hope for a beautiful and sane 2022. All the best to you and yours, Jeremy. And, once again, thanks for another round of great questions.
Get yourself a free download of “Funkasaurus” from Bruce’s new record 7 BC at Soundcloud:
And make sure to find out more about Bruce Cohen at the Tarock Music official website at:
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