Bruce Forman talks GrumpsTV, humor & entertainment, and the Rocky Mountain Archtop Festival
You started your video series, GrumpsTV, during the pandemic. What were your goals for the production?
Well, I was just trying to keep from going sane; that’s basically it. I’ve always liked being an entertainer as well as a player, so when shit shut down and there were no gigs, I just created a little TV show at home. In my hope of hopes, I’d love for it to be a TV or Netflix special, you know? I think it’d be great! Basically, I’m more from the school of “just do it and see where it goes,” rather than trying to pitch the show to a bunch of people and blow smoke up their asses.
Do you plan on continuing Grumps now that events are resuming a more normal frequency?
Yes; I am GrumpsTV. I mean, the character, Grumps, some people like to think of as my alter ego. You know, we live in a world of assholes. And most of them don’t think they are, or think they’re justified in being that way. Grumps is a character who thinks he’s an asshole – but really isn’t. I’m not an asshole, I like to help people. I wish we all got along and I believe in building community, and laughing, and excelling… “just be a badass and let the rest take care of itself,” that sort of thing. That’s really my world view. I’ve worked with Clint Eastwood, and Grumps has a little bit of the “make my day” and “get off my lawn” shit to it. So basically, everything I do is GrumpsTV.
But for the Rocky Mountain Archtop Festival, I’m actually going to do a live variety show version of it – because of course, I’ve got nothing but great talent around me! So I’m just going to entertain people for as long as I can – until they shut me down! I’ll do bits of the Red Guitar, too – really, Grumps is the Red Guitar and Red Guitar is Grumps; it’s all kind of the same thing; it’s all me. I try not to make too many distinctions between the two of them, and it’s all essentially improvisational.
What are your thoughts on the role of comedy in music or musical entertainment of any kind?
There are people that feel like you can’t cross over this line; that it debases the music – I am a staunch disagreer of that: f*** them! My job, in an attempt to be an artist, is to create a feeling in the room. And if I’m entertaining people through laughter, or through good sounds, or through poetry, or through card tricks – the idea is communication. Yes, there are times when it’s deadly serious, and there are times when it’s ridiculously funny or corny. I don’t feel like I’m debasing anybody or anything by doing whatever I feel I should be doing in that moment.
I also don’t have a problem with people that feel the other way about it. I love what they do, and I appreciate it, and like I say – I’m not an asshole! I think that people should do whatever they believe, and that’s what music’s about; it’s about expression. I played with Dizzy Gillespie and Richie Cole and Freddie Hubbard and Ray Brown, and they were all entertainers too! I mean, if I told them a joke on break, they would tell it on stage. We’re there to play, but to also have fun and tell our stories. I’m one of the guys that, if somebody has a problem with me having fun or feels that I’m debasing the music, I think they’ve just got a stick up their ass. But I’m definitely not going to tell them they should do what I’m doing – they should do what they do! And they should get off my lawn.
When you’re recording your playing on video, what’s your preferred method and signal chain?
First of all, I hate recording. I just hate it. I’m a live player! All I do is just turn it on and let whatever microphone’s in the camera or computer pick it up. Or maybe I’ll have a remote mic. But I don’t run it through a DAW – I don’t do that, I mean, no. “Sorry man, you’re just gonna get what it sounds like in the room, and deal with it”. If you wanna record me, you’re gonna have to take me to somebody who’s really good at recording, and let them worry about that shit – and still, when I’m recording I’m usually isolated from other people and I can’t see them or feel them as well… I understand it’s an important part of my business, and I do a lot of (video) recording, but I wanna play! I just want to play and create a feeling in the room – and get off my lawn!
What else is happening for you toward the end of this year and the start of 2023?
Now that the floodgates are open (post-pandemic) I’ve got tons of work; I did a project called Reunion with Barney Kessel’s guitar – that trio has been working quite a bit; I’m doing the Red Guitar shows again; I’m getting called to go do a lot of master classes; I’m going to Italy this weekend for a week, then I’m home to do a few gigs, and then I get in my car and drive from Carmel, CA to Denver for the Rocky Mountain Archtop Festival!
While I’m there, I’m going to reveal something on GrumpsTV that’s going to set the archtop world on its ear. It’s going to change everybody’s life for the better, by multitudes of thousands! It’s a guitar-related product, which one would assume. But on the show I’m going to reveal this thing that I believe will not only make the world better for all of us players who are professional, but also maybe change our world forever.
What in your life brings you the most joy right now?
Playing music and hanging with my friends and family. I’m so fortunate that I’ve been doing this over 50 years professionally, and I love it now more than I ever have. I know just how f***ing lucky I am, to be that person. And I’m excited to meet new people and hear new things! But, really – get off my lawn!!
Learn more about Bruce at www.bruceforman.com