The Bob Dubrow Interview
Bob Dubrow Interview
Like so many other music fans in the area we were really excited about the 13 upcoming Pipeline! 25th Anniversary Celebration Shows running for a full month from September 12, 2014 through to October 12, 2014 and including over 80 bands. The guy who put this all together is Bob Dubrow. Understandably he's been interviewed by a couple other sites/publications such as Arts Fuse and Rocker and has been written up in The Boston Globe and Boston Magazine to name a couple. But we wanted to get the whole story and understand the history of the show better and get into the mind of Bob and find out what kind of person would take on a massive event like this.
So we at the BGN: Miss Lyn, Blowfish and John Keegan sat down to wonder out loud about this guy, the show and the celebration gigs. We wrote it all down then caught up with Bob last week. And he gave us some great answers to our questions. He also got Andy Hong, and Ted Young, the originators of Pipeline! to answer a couple of questions as well. It's definitely in depth and we think it is well worth the read!!
SECTION ONE- HISTORY
1. Where are you from?
My Wonder Bread years were spent in Wenham, a tiny town 25 miles north of your fair city.
2. What was the first rock band you saw live?
I was 15, the show was at Boston Garden, and Jethro Tull was holding court, with Curved Air opening. On my way there I remember dropping my full bottle of Tango (the drinking age was 18, but my best buddy managed to buy two of these Screwdriver quarts at a local packy) as I was getting onto the train. My friend, who was always cooler than I, looked at me in disdain. Thick as a brick indeed.
3. What was the first rock band in Boston you saw in the punk era?
At the beginning of the punk movement I was in college in Ann Arbor, MI and still singing along to Jackson Browne. Even had a bootleg of his with the rarity "You Just Want Meat, You Don't Want Me, You Asshole You." In one of my English classes I sat next to a guy who managed Destroy All Monsters, a local art punk band that the Miller brothers passed through (yes, our own Roger). I never went to see them live, but was familiar with their 1978 single "Bored"/"You're Gonna Die." I mostly stood in lines to get tickets to acts like Frank Zappa, Jesse Colin Young, Tom Waits, and later Talking Heads. I ushered a jazz series there and saw the great Charles Mingus, Corea and Hancock, the Milestone Jazzstars with Sonny Rollins, McCoy Tyner, and Ron Carter.
But when I would come home for the summer I caught up on a few local heavyweights, buying Vs. by Mission of Burma, Native Tongue, etc. By the '80s I expanded my tastes into some punk, loving Wire, the Buzzcocks, The Clash. The two Boston bands I remember seeing in the late '70s were Human Sexual Response in a Lynn club and The Girls somewhere in Kenmore Square.
4. You have an amazingly broad spectrum of musical taste where'd that come from?
I'm not sure why you think my tastes are so broad. I'm into the rock, with some folk thrown in and an occasional jazz platter. There are many more genres of music that I have little familiarity with. But if you think something about me is amazing, who am I to argue?
5. Had you done any radio pre-Pipeline!?
Yes. I never joined the great student-run station on the U. Michigan campus, WCBN (yes, a very close anagram of Boston's superb WBCN, which I grew up with), because I felt I just wasn't skilled enough...especially when I heard them devote many air hours to the deconstructive madness of The Residents.. How could I not feel hopelessly backwards in my musical education after that?
6. What made you decide to do a radio show?
In my usual fashion of being 10 years behind in most things, I joined WMWM at Salem State in 1987 at age 30. I was spending 50-60 hours a week running my liquor store in Beverly, which gave me no satisfaction beyond a paycheck, and desperately needed another outlet. In 1986 Steve Locciatto, who worked at The Record Exchange in Salem and had been GM at one point of WM, said he could get me on the air. I used that opportunity to do a 2-hour special on my old summer camp friend John Trubee, quite the character in underground circles. A musician with albums out on the '80s Enigma label, he was especially known for his hilariously demented prank phone calls, which he did to entertain himself and me during the camp off-seasons. He taped them, mailed them to me, and my brother and I would in turn do our own far lamer calls, sometimes taping OVER his remarkable calls when we were too broke to buy a new cassette. I regret all the Trubee prank calls that are lost forever thanks to us. I truly challenged myself on my first foray in radio: I had various recorded formats of Trubee material including many homemade cassettes that I had to constantly run from one studio's tape deck to another studio's tape deck to make the proper segues. I figured that since I cleared that high hurdle, I might indeed be cut out for radio. I stayed at WMWM for 4 years, spending my last three with a local music show I titled The Rumbleseat. I had Boston bands like Drumming on Glass, Anastasia Screamed (who got locked out of the building since they arrived too late), and Wadi Trip (pre-Jack Drag) drive out to the burbs and often play live in front of two mics. That was the beginning of my local music obsession.
Up north in Beverly I had been recording many of the Metrowave live acts on WERS (when it truly rocked) from 1985 until the show's demise at the end of the decade. And then there was Pipeline! In 1989 I heard the distinctly wretched production of Pipeline!'s first show with the Zulus (due to the fact it was the only show broadcast from the cafeteria upstairs), and late that year began giving money during their fundraisers, mainly to get the "Best of Pipeline!" cassettes they offered as premiums. The following year they had the same offer, but months after the fundraiser I called the station to find out what had become of the 1990 "Best of Pipeline!" premium. Andy Hong, who along with Ted Young founded the show and alternated between being host and live band engineer in the first year or two, told me to fuggedaboutit, since I was the only one who pledged for it! (They had yet to create the cassette.) Andy invited me down to visit as a compensation prize. It was now 1991. Nancy T had followed Ron Spangler as the 4th host of Pipeline!, so when I joined the station I started my own local music show called Dirty Water, which aired at the ungodly hour of 12:30am and went to 2:30am. And without fail, for the 9 months I was stuck at that time slot, I managed to weekly book some of the best bands in Boston to strip down to an acoustic format and play in the early morning hours. Returning to Beverly at 4:00am and waking at 7:00 to work a full day at my liquor store was not the recipe for charming customer relations.
Charlie Chesterman showed up with his Harmony Rockets in pajamas one night.. Bullet LaVolta actually did a full electric set at 1:00 in the morning, two songs of which are on the 1996 Pipeline! 2-CD set (so we cheated a little and threw on a Dirty Water recording...oh the subterfuge!). An all-girl metal band known as Malachite (which included Juanita the Scene Queen from WBCN) even tried the acoustic route. Wow...the songs actually had intelligible lyrics and structure! Dirty Water lasted for 2 1/2 years. Nancy T left Pipeline! in spring '93 and the show took a hiatus. I had originally desired to host that established show but could not break in...and now I had established my own little acoustic version which I was quite fond of. So it took a little while, but by the fall Dirty Water was transforming into Pipeline! as I invited bands in to do the electric thing. My psyche obviously needed a slow transition period, but as 1994 began I officially brought back the name and hosted Pipeline! until 2003, when I passed the baton to Jeff Breeze, who has carried the torch (oops, mixed metaphors!) to the current day.
SECTION TWO - PIPELINE!
1. If Pipeline! were a company, what was its mission statement?
Oh, you want to know our reason for existing? It's evident in every broadcast: To bring the rock of Boston and New England, both recorded and live, to the ears of the people. Even if they number but a handful.
2. How did the idea come about for a radio show with live local Boston bands?
I must defer to Ted Young and Andy Hong for this and three other questions, as they were our revered founders from the Paleolithic era of Pipeline!
Ted: I remember hearing that WERS had just announced that the Metrowave program was going to stop airing live music and thinking that it would be awesome if WMBR took up the slack and started its own live music program.
3. Was it difficult to pitch the Pipeline! idea to the station?
Ted: No. I remember that most of the station management at the time thought it was great.
4. Zulu's were your first band? How come?
Ted: They were available and we really liked them. I think we tried to get Jane's Addiction for the first band, but that didn't work out. The original intention was to have Pipeline! be a live music program, not just local music, but it proved to be difficult finding out of town bands to play live studio sessions on a weekday evening.
5. Tell us two of your best stories from the early days of Pipeline!.
Back to Bob: I don't really have any stories to tell. The bands were all almost unfailingly gracious. I vaguely remember a band getting into a scuffle with local toughs outside the Walker Memorial Building where we broadcast. That was odd, because MIT does not usually attract those elements, you know? Except when I invite them and they also happen to play music. Security guards descended upon the whole bunch. I'm thinking the band in question during this incident was Tree. Maybe Dave Tree can verify.
Then there was the member of the member of the band Bratface, who dropped trough, sans underwear, during our interview. I suppose he mistook our studio for a locker room.
In the same but slightly less provocative manner (where are the girls when these things happen?), Tim Katz of Roadsaw played his whole set in the nude, and I was pleased to see he covered his unholiness with his guitar.
6. Did the station put any restrictions on the live bands, what they could say, play etc?
I don't recall there being any such restrictions. I certainly never recited any to them.
7. Did a band ever cross the line, you must have some stories about some crazy pranks or Bloopers - please share some with us!! Was there a several second delay?
No seven second delays. Any so-called bloopers just went out over the air and I never worried too much about it. They were playing close to the 10:00pm "safe harbor" period anyway when "indecency" is allowed...but not "obscenity," of course. Although I'm not sure "close" counts.
8. We all know how the story usually ends but were there two or three bands from back in the day that you thought would surely make it big?
And didn't, you mean? Big Dipper, first of all. My favorite Boston band. Made their only flawed album for a major label, and shortly thereafter fell apart. But their stuff on Gerard Cosloy's Homestead label (before he became part owner of Matador) was brilliant (the Boo-Boo ep and Craps and Heavens LPs). There was the punk band The Trouble. They had "it" for one disc, then collapsed and went major with offshoot The Explosion, who's material didn't grab me as much.
My own rather twisted tastes would have liked the somewhat experimental Turkish Delight, whose daring never trumped their clever songcraft, to make it. Also The Iditarod from Providence, whose spooky ambience delivered a lovely take on wyrd psych.
9. Not to sing your own praises, but what do you think/hope Pipeline! has meant to the local rock community?
I always just hoped that the community tuned in more often than not every week.
10. Was there a moment when you knew Pipeline! was a hit? Tell us about that. How did that feel?
Ted: Not yet.
Andy: When band members started to recognize us at the shows, and THEY would approach US to ask if they could play on Pipeline!, instead of the other way around.
11. Was there anything about a person, a band or an event that have defined the local rock scene for you?
Person: Roger Miller. Besides being a key player (but aren't they all) in Mission of Burma, a defining Boston band, he has continued to reinvent himself though excursions on guitar and piano, both solo and in musical outfits, like Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, No Man, soundtrack maestros The Alloy Orchestra, Elemental Guitar, The Binary System, and who recently reformed his old Ann Arbor band Sproton Layer for a few shows, consisting of him and his twin brothers playing music ahead of its time back when it was created in 1969-70. (Below is a photo of Sproton Layer at TT's during a 2013 reunion.)
12. Why did you decide to stop doing Pipeline!?
In 2003 I called it quits because I wanted to explore the music I grew up with in the '60s and '70s, which I've done since as one of the hosts of WMBR's Lost & Found show, airing every weekday from noon-2:00. Presently I'm just a fill-in, but find myself doing it with some frequency. I still believe very little touches the tremendous leaps and explorations found in the rock-related music made from 1965-1975. A fountain of riches, that era! And there are always songs and bands being rediscovered or even discovered for the first time.
SECTION THREE - THE BIG SHOW
1. So on to the anniversary show you've put togetherů.it's so huge!! Do you do things BIG in your everyday life? Vacations BIG?... Gifts BIG?... Sandwiches BIG?
Nawww. Just a few big events. I ended up hosting my 30th high school reunion at my home because the class officers failed to get it off the ground. I ended up with three times the classmates than they managed in the 5 weeks before the date.
A few weeks later that summer I organized another party at my house inviting families I grew up with in a neighborhood in Wenham that had been newly developed in the late '50s-early '60s. Well over 100 people came representing 17 original families from the hood.
Then there was the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love seven years ago in which 180 showed up at my place from all walks of my life. I also have had some experience putting on previous Pipeline! or Kimchee-related shows, some rather large. But nothing that's even close to this monstrosity!
Hey promoters and bookers! Here I am! Unemployed and ready to parlay these organizational talents into helping your agency do the thang! What are you waiting for?!
2. Who came up with the nugget of the reunion idea and when? We're interested to know how long it has actually taken to get to this point!
Not very long. In fact, I started quite late in the day to be getting the nights I wanted at the venues I'd chosen. Cuisine en Locale in Somerville saved my butt when they offered to take on the five nights that had fallen through at The Sinclair and The Royale. There were too many acts that already had holds for the nights for me to luck out, but that's not surprising because I began trying to reserve nights in mid-May. I should've started in Jan-Feb. But it wasn't until the last day in March that Pipeline!'s current host Jeff Breeze called me up to say he wanted to put on a show for Pipeline!'s 25th anniversary and would like my help.
I told him about the successful night of reunited bands (Volcano Suns, The Titanics, The Voodoo Dolls, Busted Statues, Moving Targets and Yukki Gipe singing Bullet LaVolta songs with the Targets as his backup band) I'd curated at the Middle East downstairs for Pipeline!'s 10th anniversary in 1999, and asked if that approach suited him? He said yeah. So I said "Leave it to me," which he did...and one show led to two led to...well, what we have now. The lucky number 13. So from Point A to Point B would be a total of just over 5 months.
3. Given the number of bands and locations how did you manage to put this all together? Did anyone help that you want to shout out to?
How did I manage it? With tenacity and the passion I bring to doing things like this. It's bringing music to the people, which I've done on the radio for 27 years and did for 10 years and 35 releases as co-owner of Kimchee Records. It's what I did with my friends in my teenage years...shared with them my musical passions. It's obviously a lifetime avocation. There is no one to shout out to because as of today, August 29, I have done it all.
No wait! Jeff fielded some calls and emails to WMBR, apparently from a bunch of minor bands looking to become a part of the festival. Thanks Jeff!
And the same to Kris Thompson, a member of the band Nisi Period that has reunited to play this event, who helped me with a Facebook Events page. And to the future WMBR folk who will be assisting during the actual shows.
Oh, but wait some more! There's t-shirt maven (and new dj at WMBR) Rick Roth of Mirror Image and his master designer KC Hruby who'd BETTER be finishing his work up now. Yes, we intend to have shirts and posters for sale at the shows, as well as the 1996 Pipeline! 2-CD set whose sales still benefits WMBR.
4. How did you get in touch with all these people? Have you been in touch with many of them over the years? How did you get all the contact info?
Facebook was essential to the task. I could not have done this without our now omnipresent online social media. The process is ever-so-simple: Just find out the names of bandmembers (if one doesn't know them already) by googling the bands and then punch them into the search window on Facebook until you get a live one. It works well. I've been in touch with very few of these bandfolk over the years.
Remember, I'm that divorced aging guy out in suburbia with three kids still in school. Now I only see Beatles tribute bands and Entrain at the Thursday night summer Crane Estate concerts in Ipswich. You know I'm kidding, right?
5. What have been the biggest challenges of pulling this extravaganza together?
Working with the venue bookers to make it all happen can be a challenge. Dealing with the few bands (only one), club bookers (only one), and colleagues (only one) who for varying reasons were alienated by my reaching out to them.
I do not like bickering with people, despite my history in the Letters pages of the Noise with Joe Coughlan 15 years ago...and an occasional bump at the station. I believe in peace and love and music and Reese's for all.
6. Barry and the Remains/Rising Storm are probably the oldest groups to play but it's hard to match the elusive and obscure Freeborne. I don't think they even gigged much back in 1968. How did that reunion scoop come about?
Well, I am the sometimes host of the '60s-mid '70s show Lost & Found on 'MBR, and my deepest love is the music of that era. So far be it from me not to seek out the oldest of the Boston rock bands. I also tried for tons more from the era: Listening, The Lost, Teddy & The Pandas, Orpheus, Ultimate Spinach, Earth Opera, Seatrain, The Rockin' Ramrods, Eden's Children, Prince & The Paupers, The Barbarians, The Pandoras (whose guitar player, Michelle Marquis, lived across the street from me in Wenham when I was growing up...I got to see them play in her basement! Quite a thrill!)...even Quill, who played Woodstock (now how many of you know that?). That was, of course, the hardest era to find players from. The Freeborne, whose sole album I had on an "unofficial" CD release, just happened to have that same album re-released officially this past spring on Erik Lindgren's (of Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, also playing the fest) Arf! Arf! label. I did not know this when I contacted them. I was thrilled they were into the idea, and so very pleased as well that The Remains and The Rising Storm are doing something for our series.
7. Were there a couple of bands that you would have loved to have joined the list but for whatever reason you couldn't work it out? If so why, what happened?
A couple? Helium. The Neighborhoods. Karate. Think Tree. Christmas. Blake Babies. Bullet LaVolta. Del Fuegos.. 6 FInger Satellite. Velvet Crush. Tugboat Annie. Salem 66. Swirlies. The Five. La Peste. The Girls. Magic Hour. New Radiant Storm King. Uzi. Come. Papas Fritas. The Elevator Drops. To name but a few.
But I was just thinking that, removing the '60s bands which is a low odds game to begin with, I probably had close to 50% of the bands I asked say yes.
8. It's really close to the beginning of the event - has anyone backed out?
It's inevitable. There are always last-minute fires to put out in adventures like this. The 360's. The Bristols. Mr. Airplane Man. Tracy Bonham. Interestng -- I just noticed they are all female or female-led bands. No, wait. The Pills too. They destroyed my latest theory.
9. Gigs are historically fraught with ego issues, were there any or many ego issues, problems with set times, billing order etc? (you don't have to mention names if so)
I feel very lucky to say only one or two so far!
10. In the Art Fuse interview, I thought there was a negative spin on age, the "play before you die" idea. A lot of bands from 'back in the day' are not only doing reunions but reforming. What is your take on band reunions and reformations? And this one? Do you really think its about playing before they die?
Brett Milano and I were kidding. You mean that didn't come across? I'm probably 2/3rds to the grave myself. I am obviously ALL FOR bands reuniting or reforming. That Who lyric from the song "My Generation" was written by a 20-something (Pete Townshend) and only has resonance to 20-somethings. "Hope I die before I get old?" How about: "Hope I get old before I die and continue to play until my last sigh." Which is what many lifers in Musician World (it's a place we non-musicians are not allowed to visit) would likely agree with.
11. This event as a whole is going to leave a mark. What do you hope that is?
A rash. Or a Sandman. A real-life resurrection would be even better than Vapors of Morphine. I hope that isn't in bad taste. I truly admired that man.
12. What are you planning to do next?
Find a real job. You know...the paying kind.
13. Bob you're crazy like us; putting time and energy into the music scene thing for no money. We want to try to get an insight into ourselves by asking you why would anyone go to this much trouble? Not just this mega anniversary event but all those years doing the show too?
It's something that exists in you from an early age. I've had the urge to own and share music since age seven, when I bought that first LP, Beatles '65. The collecting urge is even worse: that's when you spend money you really shouldn't to own more and more music. I call it "the sickness." It's the only illness I have for which they have yet to discover meds. There are many music collectors who have this debilitating condition...you know who you are out there! It's not as bad as some -- more benevolent than a gambling habit, but more invasive than, say, my teenage boy's mania for birdwatching. Once he has his binoculars and camera, he's done with his purchases...until the next generation of cameras arrive. From a financial standpoint, he's still healthy, but when it comes to time investment in other things, he makes himself poor. And yet he does not care. He is living much of his life the way he wants to, and the pursuit of money (which is not yet his concern) takes a back seat to the spiritual boost and excitement he finds in his hobby.
That's also what I find in volunteer radio and developing a festival like this. I happen to think music is the most life-affirming thing we have in our lives, along wth the emotional and physical connection to be had with one's beloved. The slogan "Sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll" would capture this idea if it only replaced the word "drugs" with "love."
I ran a liquor store for 15 years, I see what the drug alcohol can do to people, and it is NOT heavenly. You ask why anyone would go to this much trouble. But since when did exercising one's passions become a troublesome thing? Quite the opposite: my love for experiencing and sharing music makes life worth living. The drive for money is important only to the point that one can live comfortably, but too many people acquiesce to a lifetime of slaving for the almighty dollar while their true passions are left by the wayside. People like you and me might not look serious enough in our money pursuits, but what does conformity to society's drudgeries do for one's soul? Certainly not what music is able to do for it.
Hey...wait, gimme my soapbox back...!
Lyn! John! Blowfish! I'm not doooooooooooooone........