Tuesday 24 May 2016

Spot On for Bernie - An interview with Bernie Torme

Who are you and where are you based?

I am a guitar player song writer and recording studio owner from Dublin living in the UK, in the wilds of Kent (not wild compared to Ireland, just slightly unkempt, but wild so far as the garden of England goes!).

Ozzy Osbourne, Ian Gillian, Dee Snider were some of your employers?

And all very different and interesting, slightly like that Chinese curse about living in interesting times: occasionally a bit too interesting! I have Ian Gillan largely to thank for my survival as a musician, he was a very encouraging boss, and while a member of Gillan I managed to get my head above the parapet and get noticed: after the hits and tours I had a life as a musician and songwriter. But while I have to thank Ian for getting enough of a name to get to do Ozzy, Dee Snider and Atomic Rooster and being able to release my own albums, the inevitable flaw in that particular carpet was that Ian didn’t pay the people in the band their promised share. Or indeed any share! So having learnt lesson no 1 in the music biz and being a realist I left Gillan in ’81: the band tottered on for two more albums believing it would all come good: it didn’t. But I really enjoyed my time with all my famous bosses and learnt lots from them about what to do and also what not to do. For all that I never was a ‘session musician’ in any sense: people hired me for playing and sounding like me and live performance: for better or worse I am a very identifiable player.

How close are you to the music business in Ireland nowadays?

Not close enough! Sadly not much at all. Unlike Lizzy, U2 and Rory in Taste I left Ireland in ’74 as a solo guitarist, not as a band. At that time celtic rock was fashionable, Horslips etc, but it wasn’t what I was into, so I left for England as a lone warrior. Because of that I didn’t have much music biz ties back to Ireland, just family ties, and no-one in my family played in bands. So I really lost touch with people in music back home. Gillan never played there: we actually had dates booked in the early 80’s but they got pulled due to insurance problems: I was really disappointed about that. Because of that I’m really knocked out to be doing the Rory Gallagher festival in Ballyshannon on the 3rd June, that’s much more important to me than doing Madison Square Gardens was with Ozzy! Rory was and is a huge hero for me.

Your last album was crowdfunded, why?

Last two albums actually. It seemed to me to be a good way to go: unlike a lot of musicians I’m ok at adding up: in bean counter terms getting 10% of 50% on a normal record deal and not owning the finished product did not seem as good as getting 100% and owning it! So you sell a bit less? So what. Having total control, ownership, a brilliant built in personal marketing situation through PledgeMusic, it was no contest, for me it was perfect. I have a dedicated audience, not huge, but big enough. And it provided me with that pistol to the head cut off point to get it finished on time, which was the main benefit imho in having a producer in the old days.

You left Dublin a long time ago but do you think being Irish helped you in the music industry?

Not much initially when I moved here in 74, there were quite a lot of bad vibes due to the bombings and all that grief. But long term being Irish was a distinct advantage, Terry Wogan and Phil Lynott worked wonders! A big plus! Also having that different musical background counted too, growing up with Irish traditional and loads of country, John McCormack, all of that and more gave you a different melodic and musical sensibility to English musos, that helped all of us, Gary, me, Rory, everyone. Made you different as a player. But honestly apart from that I’ve never been part of the music industry anywhere other than trying to get it to enable me to do more music! I think that’s termed narcissistic! An essential thing if what you do for a living is standing on a stage making a fool of yourself!

By Pascal Derrien. Originally published at the Irish Executives Network

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