Plugin Alliance: When did you first know you wanted to be a musician?
Bruce Turgon: I started playing woodwinds in 2nd grade — it was required then and I’m grateful for the experience as it gave me an appreciation for music and a strong work ethic. I didn’t have a plan to be a musician — it chose me and there was really nothing else I wanted to do as a career
PA: Did you start out playing bass?
BT: Actually, in my early teens, I was a rhythm guitarist, keyboardist and singer in a band where the bassist didn’t show for rehearsal so I picked up his Hofner and did my best McCartney…. I had no real idea what I was doing but loved the power in it and I had enough of a music foundation to understand what the fundamentals were so it just took off from there. Over the years, I’ve played a lot of instruments on different projects, but bass is always my main focus
PA: You’re originally from Rochester, NY. What was the scene like when you first started playing in bands?
BT: It was somewhat eclectic in that the Eastman School Of Music is located there so there were many great players out in the clubs and working around town. Although I would often see exceptional jazz and classical players, I was mostly focused on the rock side of things and it was primarily Top 40 bands that were working steadily. I joined a band that was quite successful on the local club scene and got my start performing in front of large crowds, however, I was more focused on a heavier approach with the potential to write my own material.
PA: You and (Foreigner lead singer) Lou Gramm grew up near each other right?
BT: Yes, we were in adjoining school districts. As a kid, I used to take my bands onto his turf and try and win the battle of the bands competitions — that didn’t happen, but I did know who he was and respected his talents (he was also a drummer then) when we eventually worked together.
PA: When did you two start working together?
BT: It must have been around 1970–71.
"My regulars used every session, every project, every day: bx_limiter, bx_saturator, bx_digital v2, Maag EQ4. The low latency and dsp usage make them available in and across many tracks in huge projects." — Bruce Turgon
PA: After joining the band Black Sheep with Lou you released the “Stick Around” EP, which you co-wrote with Lou. How did that affect the trajectory of Black Sheep?
BT: It was an amazing transformation for a band that was focused on original material and obscure covers. We had been developing a strong and loyal following in the clubs, but it was a hard road and we were barely able to keep the band afloat. However, when “Stick Around” hit the local airwaves, it was immediate and empowering — there were lines around the block and former club gigs turned into real shows — there was a serious vibe attached to it. It was also the early days of FM radio and we had huge support from the local station, WCMF, who had us on the air performing live several times.
PA: When did you begin to engineer and produce?
BT: I always had a vibe for production and arrangement, which was really just an extension of the songwriter’s perspective. However, I didn’t really get involved in the engineering side until the late 80’s when I assembled my first home studio. I had a truly empowering recording experience with producer Pat Moran (Robert Plant, Rush, Queen, Big Country) at Bear Tracks when we worked on Lou’s first solo album “Ready Or Not”. Besides being very musical and human in his approach, he was patient and willing to share his process with me as I was clearly interested in how best to achieve sounds and performances I envisioned and had hinted at in the development work. This melding of technology and a genuine concern for the artist was and is still a somewhat unique experience that I try to maintain in my current work. My first studio was a 16-track Tascam MRS-16 tape deck with a Tascam 520 desk and whatever outboard I could get my hands on. It was just a songwriter’s room, but from there, I started to delve into the engineering side and although it would be quite a while until I had a commercial facility, I have from that point on been immersed in the technology side of music.
PA: You’re best known for your work with Foreigner and Lou Gramm, but you’ve been involved in a lot of other groups with some pretty interesting people. Can you tell us about some of those?
BT: Well, after Black Sheep was done in ’76, I was offered a gig with a metal band signed to UA. Although that didn’t work out, it did get me to LA and the opportunities that it provided. Like so many others, I had a band playing the Whisky, Starwood, Troubadour, etc. and crossed paths with many great musicians, songwriters, producers, A&R guys, etc. I had a couple of A&R guys who were very supportive of me, particularly John Kalodner at Atlantic & Geffen and John Carter at Capitol who were instrumental in plugging me in to the scene and enabling me to move forward. Carter gave me my first cover as a solo songwriter and it opened new doors.
Eventually, I worked with Nick Gilder (Prism, Phoenix etc.) and had my first outing as a solo artist. Billy Thorpe (Children Of The Sun / Pasha) hired me to play bass on his American and Australian tours. He also introduced me to a band on Virgin/10 records called Warrior. I joined the band and was heavily involved with the songwriting for the second album, which was to be produced by respected engineer/producer Kevin Beamish, when Lou contacted me to work on his record. After the success of “Midnight Blue”, “Ready Or Not”, etc., I signed with Warner Chappell as a songwriter and while the bulk of my work was as Lou’s co-writer, I also had co-writes and covers with many artists and writers of that era — Kiss, John Wetton, many Euro artists, etc…. Some, like John Wetton, would come to my home studio to work. Eventually, I worked with Steve Stevens for his Atomic Playboys project and Viv Campbell with our Shadow King album.
PA: How did you end up playing and writing with Foreigner?
BT: Lou and I were working on the next album after Shadow King and during this time, he and Mick Jones reconciled. Mick came to Lou’s studio and played on a track that I had entitled “Time Heals” and would eventually be the basis for the first single from Mr. Moonlight, “Until The End Of Time”. I had met Mick before, but it was the first time we had ever worked together. Eventually, they released a “best of” album entitled “The Very Best and Beyond” with three new songs. I was asked to be in the video for one of the new tracks, “Heaven On Our Side”, and a subsequent tour to promote the album. The band and response to it was great and eventually coalesced into a working entity and I recorded and toured the world with them for 11 years
PA: Foreigner had already had success for a few decades. Did you feel any pressure being added to that lineup?
BT: Not really pressure, just respect for their accomplishments and a desire to bring new energy to the shows as well as having an awareness for their heritage. Quickly, the bands momentum was substantial and I was empowered to make it my own. I was coming in with some measure of success so it was really a matter of finding the proper place and helping move things forward.
PA: Did you contribute some writing to the 1995 release “Mr. Moonlight”?
BT: I did — the aforementioned “Until The End Of Time” was my inception and the most visible track from the album — I had several other co-writes with Mick & Lou as well.
PA: How long did you work with Foreigner?
BT: Around 11 years
PA: You’ve played with some real rock guitar legends including Ronnie Montrose, Vivian Campbell and Steve Stevens. Any favorites?
BT: They’re all favorites for different reasons.
I, of course, knew of Ronnie, but had not met him before my pal Ricky Philips introduced me to him. We had no idea, but we lived a mere 7 miles apart and as I’m a runner, I would run down to his place and we worked together for quite a while. Sometimes I would play, other times engineer for him at his studio, but mostly we’d just hang out and be friends. Ronnie played on my first solo album as well so there’s much love and respect there — great player and friend, much missed…
Viv — amazing player and great guy — as fun to play pool and drink beer with as share a stage. We got together under difficult business circumstances and I had always hoped there would be a time to share more, but life goes on. There are some truly memorable performances from our work together though.
Steve — probably the most focused and in control of his instrument of any hard rock/metal guitarist I’ve worked with. A gentleman as well and I truly enjoyed my time with him.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Mick Jones in this group of esteemed players. While all aforementioned possess great time and command of their instrument, Mick has a rhythm pocket that I have experienced with no other. Taking the stage and winning is expected and it is relentless from the first chord to the last — the recordings tell the tale…
PA: Recording technology has changed dramatically over the course of your career. How has it changed what you do?
It is just so immediate now. Not necessarily the creative process (depending on how one works), but the tools and communication. I never owned a Pultec or 1176 — it was only available for use in high-end studio applications, but now they are a mouse click away and sound very good with no noise.... And of course, we also now have tools that were not even imagined only a few years ago like the bx_digital v2 and working in mid/side and with few restrictions. Honestly, if you can imagine it, it’s now available in your own studio. So engineers of all levels are empowered and the state of the art moves forward because of it.
PA: Do you think it’s necessary for musicians coming up now to learn how to record and be able to produce their own music?
It depends on how they want to participate in the creative process although I would recommend a rudimentary understanding of current technology, if for no other reason than to communicate ideas. Until a basic understanding is second nature, fighting the technology/computer gets completely in the way of the creative stream and much can be lost in the process. Consequently, if you’re not able to move quickly in a very temporary world, there are many who are, and it’s opportunity lost so yes, whether producing or just communicating, this is the way it’s done now and it behooves young artists to embrace the technology.
PA: You’ve done some composing for TV as well. How did you get into that?
BT: My first major exposure was HBO’s “Boxing After Dark”. I was introduced to Lou DiBella, who was head of business affairs for HBO. We went to lunch and he wanted to talk rock and I wanted to talk boxing… I had seen a fledgling show with really lame needle drop music for a truly bombastic event — up and comers with nothing to lose and everything to gain. As a fan I told him that I thought that neither the fighters nor the show were being represented properly from a production standpoint and came back to him with several one minute ideas of how I thought it should go. I was given the show and the music ran for 15 years with new works throughout… I was also involved in 4 montage scenes for Showtime’s “Stargate” series via producer Michael Greenburg, and have done underscore for many PBS documentaries as well as indies. Lou and I have many songs in film — “The Lost Boys”, “Highlander 2”, Navy Seals”, etc….
BA: What other types of projects do you work on at After Hours Recorders?
BT: After Hours is simply an extension of my normal work environment. When I moved to northern CA, I was signed to a European label, Frontiers, and had an obligation to finish an album. I leased a place in a business park where I could work late and loud. During the course of recording the album, I was approached by local ad agencies about doing underscore for local TV and radio. It moved on from there to recording their kid to recording their kids band to recording…. You get the picture. Honestly, I had no plan to be a commercial recording studio, but seven years later, After Hours is an award winning staple in the Northstate music community and quite busy. I run it very much in the mold of my single best recording experience that I spoke of earlier — the artist and their vision is important, you are not doing them a favor to work with them, they are paying you for your knowledge, experience and expertise. I include a level of caring as I know how delicate this process is and if I had not had that, I doubt I would be here now.
PA: What are some of your favorite Plugin Alliance plugins, and how do you use them?
BT: My regulars used every session, every project, every day: