Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tucson Drummers Series: Meet...Bruce Halper!!

(photo credit: Cliff Green)
Note: Bruce Halper has been a fixture in Tucson’s band scene for…decades! He exudes a funloving Vegas-style panache.  He’s been in about 40 bands, with the most famous probably being the Sandrubies and Rainer & Das Combo (for 3 years).  Currently he drums for Leila Lopez, Sandrubies, Luminarios, Aaron Gilmartin, and Jazzholes (aka Jazzphones).  He’s also worked for several years as a jazz singer, in the style of Tony Bennet. Drumroll please…here’s Bruce!

 “Flying Bruce”

I started playing drums when I was about 13, in New York. My piano teacher actually taught me my first basic beat. It was the basic beat, like eight notes on the high hat, and like boom-cha-boom-cha.  The way we learned was by copying all the records of the ‘70’s, note for note.  The guy who showed me that is now a pretty bigtime producer out in L.A. and we’re still friends. He used to slow down the vinyl on the guitar solos, so he could hear every note. That’s how we learned.
I went to private school in Riverdale, and we had a “school rock band” – it was a class – and we learned all about rock n’ roll. In that class, I played every instrument onstage. We had a number called “Flying Bruce”, which meant I would go from instrument to instrument while the band continuously played.  I think we also did some Dylan too.

I then moved to Tucson, and was playing in bands by 16. Later, who knew I would grow up with one of Dylan’s drummers: Winston Watson III?  We went to Jr. High together in Tucson.

My first club gig was at Choo-Choo’s in the ‘70’s (now known as the “Surly Wench”)  We started a band called Shire, and the name was taken! So we changed it to Flyer.  We did the Cars and Sytx and Kansas and Yes, and all that.  We had a chick singer and she was so beautiful.  They had a wet t-shirt night; I loved all that. I was all of 16 years old.

Another band I was in was called “DangerZone” and another was “Randy Orange Band”. He was a trippy dude, but a good friend. We used to do originals but started doing Blondie covers and the like. The punk community hated us and would come to gigs, which were well-attended, hell, sold out at places like Smiley’s and the Embers on Speedway.
"Hopkins, Slutes, and Jeff Keenan...were scouting me!"
Fast forward to the mid-‘80’s, and I’m drumming for Rainer (from about ’85-’88), and I was also in this horrible cover band playing 5 nights a week – this horrible disco shiizdtt.  Rainer found a better drummer (Ralph Gilmore) and fired me.  So, I’m at this disco club, and Hopkins and Slutes and I believe Jeff Keenan are there – they were scouting me.  I remember how out-of-place they looked coming from the downtown area.  All I said was, “get me tha FoHque outta here”, meaning I would much rather do your gig”.  Two weeks later, I was playing in front of 10,000 people and recording for RCA records.  Quite a jump, I would say.  That’s how I started drumming for the Sidewinders.  I did the recording as a favor to Rich on a song called “Worlds Apart” on their debut album for RCA.

Thoughts about drum fills
Well, drum fills and drum solos are two completely different things.  Fills are necessary in pop music as part of an arrangement for a song. They let you know when something is going to happen musically.  For example, I do a fill when you’re going into a chorus or out of a bridge; I do this for the song and for the songwriter, but never to show off or say “look what I can do”.  A fill will sort of propel the band into another place and they’re necessary or else music would be boring.  By the way, when I learn Leila’s songs, for example, we take great pains to make sure that the drum fills work right for the passage, and not be (what is called in the music as) “overplaying”.  I hate that.

Tune In For Another Installment of ....TUCSON DRUMMERS!!
Note: This article was originally published in SLIT 2010

1 comment:

  1. Rock On Bruce!
    Funny isn't it - this is a drummer interviewing a drummer...