An Interview with Brit-Polish blueser Bron Buick: I'm just a white boy with a black man's soul

"...The Blues has no boundaries…you are led completely by what's in your soul!"

Bron Buick: The Blues Bronster

London born of Polish parents blueser Bron Buick started out studying classical piano before touring as a drummer from the age of 16. Having worked right across Europe and Scandinavia in every scale and type of venue he hung up sticks though continued his songwriting and guitar collecting until in 1996 he was asked by an old friend to join his band but come back as a frontman - leading us nicely to the present.

 

 

Spent 17 odd years touring the world as a drummer with various bands including Flying Saucers (with Sandy Ford & Pete Pritchard), Count Bishops (with Johnny Guitar), Redhouse Blues Band, Stateline, Trux (with Eddie Allen & Roger Newell), Tilt (with ex Dr.Feelgood's Gordon Russell & Andy Heart), Gunslingers, and the legendary Chuck Farley (featuring Steve Simpson, Geoff Whitehorn, Polli Palmer, B.J.Cole & the late Boz Burrell). Also performed with Paddy Goes To Holyhead, Glitterband, some of the Ramones, Johnny Thunders, Quireboys to name but a few. Now splitting his time between Britain and the USA, Bron still performs his rockin'live shows,is writing more prolifically than ever and is about to lay down a whole bunch of new songs to complete the Battered'n'Bluesed album very soon. So look out - The Bronster is back...


Interview by Michael Limnios

 

Bron, when was your first desire to become involved in the blues & who were your first idols?
Being born at the end of the 50's Mama's radio blared rock'n'roll so my earliest idols were Domino, Presley,Orbison, Domino and more than anyone Eddie Cochran…then I heard The Stones and Yardbirds and Mayall when I was about 7 years old so I needed to find out where R'n'R came from so my interest in blues started pretty early…Muddy Waters, Albert, BB and Freddie King, Roosevelt Sykes, Pinetop Perkins, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson…love boogie piano!

 

What characterize the sound of Bron Buick?
Being primarily a rhythm player even though I do play slide - I like a gritty overdriven sound without being too dirty, valves cooking hot but gain surprisingly low on the amp…fat and slightly middly tone bordering on the SRV…with only a drive pedal for solo boost, digital delay very occasionally and sometimes a wah-wah pedal but set to a tone rather than used in the traditional way…I'm basically just The Boogie Man'

 

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
My very first festival in Landsberg near Munich, Germany in around 1976 with a rock'n'roll /rockabilly band called Flying Saucers - my first ever festival, and playing at the Hammersmith Odeon, London in 1985 supporting the Motorhead 10th Anniversary tour with The Gunslingers - a rough and ready dirty rock'n'roll band - (think Stones/Faces/Mott/Georgia Satellites) - as the first 'real' gig I ever saw was there when I was about 14 years old! You started playing pubs and clubs dreaming of playing the Marquee and then Hammersmith Odeon…On both of these gigs I was still drumming as I toured as a drummer from 1974 to 1989.
There were quite a few bad ones over the years - one that sticks on my mind was at the legendary Hope and Anchor in Islington, London - again with The Gunslingers in about '85/'86 - when the support band used my drum kit but loosened the cymbal stands and undid most of the screws and springs on my bass drum pedal, and the spurs that stopped the bass drum slipping forward. Let's just say my kit started to go to bits after a few numbers and the gig went horribly wrong!!
The other one was back in the late 70's when we were meant to headline a club gig in Paris, France at the Gibus Club on the last night of a European tour…and the support band for the tour stole our spark plugs and distributor cap , and drained our radiator so we couldn't make it to the gig…bastards!!!

 

What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've had?
Most memorable would be the first pro gigI ever played, then the first one at the legendary Marquee and definitely Hammersmith Odeon. As for jams, it would be a few years ago in the back room at Hopsons Plantation in Clarksdale Mississippi, a few hundred yards from the Crossroads - two days before Pinetop Perkins' homecoming gig as that was where he was born…and the shack he was born in still stands next to the plantation house!!

 

What does the BLUES mean to you & what has Blues offered you?
The blues is as much a lifestyle as it is a music form…it gives me the opportunity to express myself as a writer in terms of being able to convey much of the good and many of the bad/sad experiences in my life…though my writing does not necessarily reflect just things from my own life…and as a performer it gives me an outlet to express freely what's in my heart and soul in the most melodic way possible… conveying the lyrical content/emotion of the song to an audience as best I can be it vocally or instrumentally!...The Blues has no boundaries…you are led completely by what's in your soul!
The blues has given me a wonderful way to look at life, as unlike many people I do not see it as a depressing genre - it is a form that is biographical, uplifting, spiritual…frequently messages of despair oppression and suffering but ultimately also expressing the hopes and dreams of those that created it…and the joy that could be found in being alive even in the worst of circumstances…it is a historic journal of life…

 

Is there any similarity and difference between the US blues and the UK blues”?
Only in terms of the style of some of it - there's clear distinctions between Chicago Blues, Southern Blues, Delta Blues and the people that influenced those styles and many more…
I think British blues was slightly more 'raw' in terms of the energy it generated and thus became very popular when these bands went to the States - for them it was a new genre of Blues, almost a new beginning even though the influences were the same!
Basically, it's all Blues - UK, USA or anywhere else in the world - it's about heart and soul nothing more…

 

What is the “thing” you miss most from the “Old good days of Brit Blues”?
The thrill of it all as a young boy - the excitement of something raw and 'dirty' and real, unlike the soft pop bands that were coming to the fore like The Beatles, Searchers, Fortunes…
And then even in the late 60's and early 70's so many good things came from so called 'Brit Blues', and continued with some great Rhythm and Blues bands right through the 70's some of whom I was lucky enough to be involved with even at the start of the 80's…

 

 

What experiences in your life make you a GOOD bluesman?
Having originally studied classical music and played piano from a very early age I learnt about music in all its forms - melody, arrangement, power, subtlety, emotion…this helped me be a better, more melodic and complementary drummer…solidly holding it all together but allowing the rest of the band to express themselves freely and fitting within the arrangements - if someone wrote in a gap in a song he doesn't want to hear a drummer crashing his way through what should be silence…frequently leading into the most important part of the song…
As a guitarist, just as when I was a drummer, I believe less is more…BB King proves this…so when I do take a solo or play slide I try to be subtle, melodic and complimentary rather than dominating and overpowering - I have nothing to prove to anyone as a musician - I do what I do as best I can and hope people appreciate hearing it as much as I enjoy playing it!!

 

Which memory from gig or jam makes you smile?
Impossible…I could sit here forever and not be able to come up with an answer…far too many memories, both good and bad…but each one a part of my life that shaped my music and my life…

 

I wonder if you could tell me a few things about your experience from the road with the blues
Well I love gigging more than anything else in my life apart from my beloved Simone who has been part of my life for over 30 years…being on stage in front of an audience is the greatest buzz in the world, something money can't buy and a high no drug can possibly give you - the adrenaline rush and looking at people that have taken the time to share that time with you because they appreciate what you do and what you convey to them musically…pre-show I still get the same feeling and follow the same routine as I always have, more than 3000 times now - and without that nervous energy and that adrenaline that puts butterflies in my stomach I couldn't do it as there'd be something wrong and I'd know that I wouldn't be able to give it my best shot…and express myself the way I love the most!
It has also allowed me to meet some wonderful people that appreciate me as a person, as a musician and they appreciate the music I play…also it allowed me to meet and work with some great musicians including some of my heroes…not just here in UK and Europe, but in Mississippi - birthplace of the blues, somewhere I've spent a lot of time in recent years and it has in some respects become my spiritual  home - they've accepted me as an adopted son…maybe I'm just a white boy with a black man's soul…

 

Alive or dead, who is the one person that you’d like to meet face to face if they were alive, and talk to over jam?
Stevie Ray Vaughan…phenomenal talent, incredible player, amazingly humble and respectful man with a huge heart and so much more to share with the world had we not lost him far too young…

 

Are there any memories from the Ealing Club, which you’d like to share with us?
Reading about the people that were playing there when I was a young kid in the 60's…watching British Blues and R'n'B come to fruition, reading about all these amazing new players and then listening to them on radio or on record and growing into this wonderful gift that was taken and given back to America and reintroduced the Blues to it's place of birth as it was a genre that was too sadly forgotten about, partly due to segregation and white attitudes, particularly in the deep South where it was born…
Muddy Waters once said if it wasn't for the reintroduction of blues to America by the British invasion, (and I don't mean the squeaky clean Brit-Pop groups like The Beatles) he and his contemporaries would have just been lost in the annals of music history rather than growing back into the most important influence on modern music as we know it - no Blues, no rock'n'roll, no rock…we would've missed out on so much and so many great bands that would never have existed without it - we should all be very grateful to the Blues!!
I was lucky enough to play at The Ealing Club with a blues band called Tilt in the mid-80's…at the time it was already a club called Madoc's - we were definitely the last blues/R'n'B band to play there until we started fund raising last year by holding gigs to raise enough money for a blue plaque to be put on the building to celebrate 50 years of the club…the plaque being unveiled on 17th March 2012 - exactly 50 years to the day that Cyril and Alexis opened it…the unveiling being graced by Alexis' widow and Charlie Watts, as the Stones were first introduced to each other at the club in '62!
The unveiling was preceded by a small private reception/celebration that was attended by many that had played the club in the 60's - Charlie Watts, Mick Fleetwood, Norrie 'Snakebite' Burnett, Don Crane from Downliners Sect, Ali MacKenzie, Terry Marshall - son of Jim 'Father of Loud' Marshall OBE, whose prototype amps were first seen and heard at the club in 1962… sadly he died 3 weeks later but at least lived long enough to see the club celebrated as it deserved to be…it is a pleasure and a privilege to know them all and to have been invited to attend the celebrations…one of the highlights of my day was to meet and chat with Art Themen - legend - Alexis Korner's sax player…what a lovely humble man!

 

What is the best advice a bluesman ever gave you?
You have a heart, you have a soul, you have ears and you have eyes…use them all…they will teach you well...

 

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about blues music?
As I mentioned earlier in the question about good advice - my answer would be the same - from my I learned most from listening to my heart  and soul, and by using my ears and eyes - nobody can teach you the blues…you either feel them or you don't… The Blues is a feeling and ultimately a way of life…they gotta be in your blood…

 

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is?
Because The Blues is probably the longest standing and most influential style of music in the 20th Century…it shaped modern music as we know it…it is a vital part of the history of music without which we'd have never heard some of the most wonderful players or met some of the most wonderful people in the world…

 

Give one wish for the BLUES
Stay with us and live in our hearts and souls for ever… as only you can…

 

What would you ask Cyril Davis?
How and when did you meet Alexis Korner and discuss and realize the possibilities of establishing a music club for the youth of the time, having so much foresight  and celebrating The Blues and Rhythm and Blues…  rather than staying with what was happening up until then, given it was originally the Ealing Jazz Club…and ultimately culminating in your collaboration with Alexis forming the band Blues Incorporated In 1961, a loose-knit group of musicians with a shared love of electric blues and R&B music and featuring at various times, such influential musicians as Charlie Watts, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Long John Baldry, Graham Bond, Danny Thompson and Dick Heckstall-Smith. It also attracted a wider crowd of mostly younger fans, some of whom occasionally performed with the group...these included Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Brian Jones, Geoff Bradford, Rod Stewart, John Mayall and Jimmy Page.

 

How you would spend a day with Alexis Korner?
The same is I always did - I was introduced to him by a friend of mine around about 1978/79 whilst I was playing in the Redhouse Blues Band, and he was good enough to play some of our stuff on his radio show…up until his death on New Year's Day in 1984 we'd bump into each other here and there at gigs, or just meet up for a coffee or a drink and talk about The Blues, when not discussing the bloody awful English weather!!...I lent him two Roosevelt Sykes vinyls he didn't have that I'd  bought with my pocket money when I was about 12 years old…I never got them back before he died…but there's nobody else on earth I'd rather have lent them to…I miss our chats…

...forgive me if the answers are a little long but I would like you to know everything about me and my life, both as a person and as a musician - and then pick whatever you want…bluesy best and thanks to you always!!  I hope you enjoyed my answers as much as I enjoyed your questions - You brought back many very fond memories from my past…Bluesy best wishes and thanks to Greek blues lovers.

Bron Buick's website

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