Songwriter & guitarist Uncle Bob NYC (aka Bob Strano) grew up in the CBGB's scene & has played with an array of New York club bands, climaxing with a near decade with Volunteers a Grateful Dead cover band taking Bob Weir's role. Around 2006 he put together a band called the 3tles that featured Television's Billy Ficca on drums & occasionally in live shows Hanoi Rocks/New York Dolls bassist Sami Yaffa. The 3tles released the one EP "It's The Fucking What??" with Ficca & Sam Andrew of Big Brother & The Holding Company, recorded while on a mini-tour of England & featuring the modest regional hit "Pictures Of Kate". In 2012 Uncle Bob NYC released the solo album From 14th ... 10011 that again featured Ficca plus guest spots by Yaffa, Blondie drummer Clem Burke & guitarist Gary Lucas of Captain Beefheart's Magic Band & Gods & Monsters. Uncle Bob NYC has preformed in the Hollywood Bowl, CBGB's, South By Southwest, The Matrix, The Delancey, Hollywood's Cat Club.
Uncle Bob NYC was a customer of the record store I worked at. The first time we met I asked him for his music to share on my blog in an attempt to support local musicians & he was one of the few people who actually followed through sharing when I asked. Though it was a pre-mastered version I loved what I heard & the following interview soon followed, our first conversation outside of the store as he was on his way to California via Florida to put some finishing touches on the album. We then proceeded to work together and I gave him some help with some early promotion. Sadly, the album remains unreleased, which is a loss. Uncle Bob NYC was the last person I worked with before closing down my Roman Midnight Music record label/publishing/PR business, & as this interview shows one of the wildest, but also a super talent with amazing ideas & I discovered a new world of music from him.
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UNCLE BOB NYC: Hey, brother man, how ya doin'?
AJ: I'm doin' well. Good to talk? Is this alright?
UNCLE BOB NYC: Yeah, yeah, we're going to be good in about a minute. I'm just getting that coffee I texted you about ... I feel like I might as well be in a circus, man, because when I go on the road alone it's like ... I do have fun, I really, I always enjoy myself, but ...
UNCLE BOB NYC: The but is that I don't sleep, man, & I go out of my way to be extra fucking nice to people & make sure I don't get arrested, which has happened 3 times.
AJ: & you're a New Yorker, too, so you know how we are. We're a little brash.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Did you ever hear ... by the way, we've started because I'm going to tell you stories.
AJ: Go ahead, man.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Right, exactly.
AJ: That's the way I work. It's real stream of consciousness.
UNCLE BOB NYC: I know & it's gotta be stream & the thing is you & I have a really good rapport because I know your sort of direction for your thing. I'm very cognizant of what we're trying to accomplish here together. Because, it has to be a together, you know? So, now I digress for a little bit because we already knew that, but I dig communicating with you, your e-mails are right on, your observations are exactly what the business needs.
AJ: I try.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Anybody that's like you that feels that we're doing ... the right thing ... if we're communicating that's the end of the day ... I had this conversation with my main girlfriend & the point of contention was 'all you fucking musicians are all the same, you do it for the pussy.' I said, 'listen, fuck you & the fucking horse you're on. First of all, we're through.' Because, from day one, Aaron, I knew what I wanted since I was 3 years old. Let me tell you that Billy Ficca [former drummer of TELEVISION], my partner, & many other musicians that I play with, we all agree on this. Fuck you, you want pussy. Man, we've all been pussy magnets & especially if you're good looking & Italian & you're from New York. When you get on the road, you know, a lot of things are available to you. They're not necessarily good for you either, so you gotta be careful. So, what I said to this bitch before I fuckin' broke up with her, I said, "Listen, you just don't get me, okay?" My new girl does get me, because what I said ... which is what me & Billy our whole motto - the band, the project, if you will - ever since day one in '95 when me & Billy met at CBGB's, as a matter of fact, we basically decided that 'look, we've all been around the block.' The second he heard me speak he kinda knew who I was & I was approaching my favorite drummer. It's like asking fucking Ringo to join the BEATLES. That was exactly the scene going on in my head. & Billy is all ears all the time cause all he wants to do is play ... anyway, I digress a little bit, but the point I'm trying to make to the girl & to the world is, sure, I'm a frontman, I've scene my fair share of women. Maybe too many, you know, when I was younger, yeah, I was crazy. But, the thing of it is communicating. We do it to communicate & that is the quote. It's all about communication, because what I'm doing on this record is something that I never attempted before. I'm covering all the fucking bases with what I have to say. It comes from deep within lyrically, because to me music is like, dude, I've been playing the guitar since I saw the fucking BEATLES on Ed Sullivan on February 14, '64. I was 3 years old & I figured the whole motherfucker out. I mean, like I knew who the BEATLES were. That's how in tune I was. I was born in 1960 when Kennedy was assassinated. I knew that the whole world was upset. Now I didn't quite figure out why they were upset because I didn't realize how fucked up things were before Kennedy because I'd just came into the earth. When I came in, of course, I'm a happy little fucker because my parents are amazing & they love us & I have an older brother & I never had the middle kid syndrome. So, February 14, '64 is the typical Sunday we're watching the Ed Sullivan show, which is a family event. I already fucking know good & well the shit is in the air, the excitement ... you had to be there, but you can totally experience it on video. The BEATLES experience never goes away. But, to have lived through it & to have been my age. Now, don't forget, Billy is 8 or 9 years older than me, maybe 10, I don't know, we never had a talk about it. As far as we're concerned we're from the same time.
AJ: Yeah, generation.
UNCLE BOB NYC: We're timeless, dude. We try not to think in those terms. When me & Billy are together we're the best of friends & we're the closest of musical companions & duos in the world. That's why we fuckin' love doing it. Because, if we're communicating by ourselves in a room & we have our ideas together & then we go out & communicate with someone else. God forbid, it's not the first thing you get! Of course, another great equal fucking musician is going to get it, but you know it's not about being an equal, man, it's about collaborating. Yeah, I get the glory, I'm the frontman, I'm the fucking songwriter. So blow me! You know what I mean? It don't matter. As far as I'm concerned, from day one, & I've said this in every goddamn band I've been in ... the fucking BEATLES shared the publishing, it's true. John & Paul decided to take all the credit, but most people don't realize that Ringo & George got a really small percentage. I don't know what it was, but it was very small, but they made sure they fucking had each others back. I say to Billy & anybody else that comes in, 'when the money rolls in & its publishing, the last fucking thing I ever want anything to do is destroy our thing & whatever it needs, if I'm the leader, you can just fucking ask me & you'll have it. & that comes down to an advance. & it comes down to do you wanting me to drive you to your mom's house because she's not feeling good. We're brothers, man, & we're fucking there for each other, because the music is the most important thing.' But, if one of my brothers, who is in my band or is just a regular friend, is having trouble I'm a good guy to call, everybody knows that. That's why when people like you & my rock star friends that will start supporting me in the early stages of this record ... the feedback that I've gotten from all manner of insiders & outsiders, without naming names because I'm not a naming neighbor.
AJ: That's fine.
UNCLE BOB NYC: The feedback has been phenomenal. The feedback has basically been 'you did it. You fucking made your masterpiece.' You know, dude, I can't say that to the world. All I can do is not really take it back but just let them hear the motherfucker. We sat on it for awhile because we needed to get all the business out of the way. & not just have me & Billy been playing together for years, but we see each other regularly. We'll watch the Yankees. Billy plays in, this is important, you know my good friend Gary Lucas, the guitar player for CAPTAIN BEEFHEART'S MAGIC BAND, he's got a great fucking band called GODS & MONSTERS [originally with Jeff Buckley]. Gary & I are really good friends & practicallly next door neighbors for nearly 20 years. We do play together occasionally & Gary is on my record, on 2 or 3 songs, but he's way down in the mix. We just flop him in & out of the mix & the idea was for me & Gary to just fucking play together & record it & it sounds cool just because we're both very unique players. You'll be able to tell the difference depending on how we mixed it.
AJ: Of course.
UNCLE BOB NYC: But, it doesn't matter. The point is that I'm always there for Gary & he's always there for me. When he needed a drummer he said to me 'look, I need a guy.' & I didn't hesitate. I said, "Well, you gotta use Billy." He goes "Really, you think it'll work? Isn't he your guy?" I said, "First of all, we're not fucking busy right now. We did the "Pictures Of Kate" thing, with Sam Andrews [of BIG BROTHER & THE HOLDING COMPANY], the 3TLES thing. We toured it twice. Right now, we're always ready to do it, but as of right now, today, you're asking me," I said, "The first thing you do is call Ficca." So I called Billy & said "Billy, I just got you a great fucking gig with Gary Lucas." & he was like, typically the way he is, he goes "oh ... that's cool." You know, he's like the most chill guy in the world. I mean, for God's sakes, he was in TELEVISION, they were the first fucking band to play at CBGB'S. One of the last to get signed. But, that doesn't matter because their first album is the most important record to come out of the scene for my money. You know the critics will always tell you the first RAMONES album broke it open. But, I think that's a load of bullshit, because the thing is musically TELEVISION was definitely the most interesting band. They were all great, were all interesting & I won't debunk anyone's myth, but the thing is I hang out & play with a half of the fucking people who were on that scene, because I was there, dude. & Clem Burke from BLONDIE is the drummer on my single "She Don't Know Me". Me & Clem always have really nice musical conversations & his fucking favorite drummer, he will constantly tell you, he's always asking about Billy. & Billy's it! Billy's his guy, because when everybody was younger ... I mean, when BLONDIE & the RAMONES & all these other bands followed TELEVISION, don't forget they followed TELEVISION in there. It's well documented in books, man, that Tom [Verlaine] & the band built the goddamn stage. I mean, you can cross-reference that, but I'm telling you, I read it in a book & it's a book that was sold behind the counter at CB'S when they were a pizza parlor ... The day Joey Ramone died I was the first one at the club with a camera photographing the shrine as it started to build & one of my photos is on CB's website & I get credited in fucking 'Record Collector' magazine for the same photo. Did anybody pay me? No. Did I ask? Don't give a shit! Because I did it for Joey & I did it for us & I was the first. I'm not tooting my own horn.
AJ: I got it.
UNCLE BOB NYC: The thing about it is living in New York & being a rock musician of a certain age group. You know, they say, Sinatra said, if you can make it here you can make it anywhere. Well, it's fucking true. & he's from the other side of the river that he says is badlands & you've got to live there everyday ... that's true. My situation is ... get a load of the fuck who worked on my record, man. I don't think I've heard a more street rock record since [the RAMONES] "53rd & 3rd". I know I haven't, because Billy listens to the lyrics, take "Dirty Town". You & I have been going back & forth about it. I will find you the original demo because I didn't change a goddamn thing about it. You know, Billy never even heard the fucking song ... by the way, that's not even Billy. That's the one other song that isn't Billy, though he is on everything else & you know that there's a whole other record worth of shit that we recorded in the same sessions. Marathon sessions. So, the second solo record is done, it's fucking finished, it's in the can. So, we can stay out & play out & go mad on the road, which is all we ever wanted to do in the fucking first place. We love making records. Man, we're in it for the glory. Give us some chicks, give us the women, we'll sell you t-shirts, we'll sell you panties. That's what we're into, as long as we're communicating.
AJ: Bob, you said something earlier, that this album is doing things you've never done before. What do you mean by that?
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, okay, I'm sorry but I have to wrap my head around the scope of the question. Can you give me a subtext or do you want me to ... ?
AJ: Well, yeah, you've been saying that some people have been saying this is your masterpiece.
UNCLE BOB NYC: I cannot ...
AJ: I know, first of all, listening to the youtube videos of the 3TLES with you & Billy & Sam, the "Pictures Of Kate", this is such a jump.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Let's leave that stuff, compared to what this is.
AJ: This is such a jump up. This is such a change.
UNCLE BOB NYC: It's good. Aaron, it's hard to be objective about your own thing.
AJ: I know, I know.
UNCLE BOB NYC: But, I'll give you a direct quote, a direct comment to what I'm gathering through the question. A masterpiece. Well, first of all, the first song, which I think you might have that one? I'm pretty sure you got the first record.
AJ: What's the name of it?
UNCLE BOB NYC: "The Wind, The Rain ..."
AJ: ... & "You & Me".
UNCLE BOB NYC: Right. "The Wind, The Rain, You & Me". Like the thing of it is, anybody that sees us a lot & has been listening to us & knows me like as a guy & knows my work ... the popular opinion is that besides "Pictures Of Kate" this is the best song I ever wrote. People have even told me that its sort of like my ... it's very cinematic, so to me ... I hate to do this, but let's say like if it was a Dylan song it would be in the mid-60's period & I believe it is ... I want to talk in detail about this song because it opens the record & it opens the vibe to the whole thing.
UNCLE BOB NYC: The song is a beautiful work & it was written really spontaneously, like 2 verses, the chorus, no guitar, in a cab going from the Upper West Side down to CB's in the East Village, with my girlfriend at the time. This chick called Conscience, an Indian chick. I was separating from my wife Tonya at the time & I met this girl Conscience who just intoxicated me. She was just so taken with me & I with her that a lot of creativity was happening on a lot of fronts, you know. We had very very strong chemistry. She became an instant fan to the nth degree ... & I of her, because she was quite brilliant & sensually in a realm of something I'd never seen before & you're talking about, at this point, a guy in his late 30's. So, she really had a lot to offer. & her name is in the song. The lyrics are like a story, it's a cinematic piece really, not unlike "Visions Of Johanna", not unlike other Dylan things from that period. But, I'll site "Visions" because that is, if I had to pick a favorite Dylan song that's the one.
AJ: That's a great song.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Oddly enough my best friend in the world, who is a woman, who I am madly in love with, she & I share many many opinion & she believes that to be a masterpiece.
AJ: It's one of my favorites, too.
UNCLE BOB NYC: I will tell you there are several reasons to lead the record off with "The Wind, The Rain, You & Me". Women love it. You do not have to see me get through more than 3 lines of it in a show in concert. If you see me get through a verse & a chorus ... & I've done it alone, like, as much as I dislike performing alone I've played in the coffee houses on the west coast. Billy & I have played the west coast a number of times ... I do recall playing that particular song in San Rafael & it just killed them. I remember doing it, I believe I did it the night I met Sam Andrew in San Francisco in 1994 & it killed them. It's just a good song. & in my money, you know, that's the test of time. It's the story, it's all about New York, it's about my versions of very very grimy dirty rock'n'roll East Village. You got Johnny Thunders in there playing at the Mercer Art Center. Other friends of mine are name checked. You know it's the line "Thunders is just a wailin' at the Merserch/Ernie, John & all cannot believe." Ernie is Ernie Brooks the bass player of the MODERN LOVERS. He was also the bass player with Gary Lucas's GODS & MONSTERS, whose Billy's pal, that's the rhythm section. & John, of course, would be Jonathan Richman, because the fucking MODERN LOVERS was a support act for the NEW YORK DOLLS at the Mercer Arts Center in 197-fucking-2. But now this doesn't happen until verse 3. The verse 3 didn't get written until later. The tune & all the first & second verses did actually come to me, I kid you not, it came to me in about 3 minutes & I'm pretty sure I have the original manuscript unless I gave it to Conscience. One of us has it. I did with a Sharpie on the back of a glossy 'W' fashion magazine because I dug the look of it. I'll often write that way ... because when I feel the inspiration I gotta start writing. I think like any artist, because I do believe that songwriting, good pop songwriting, is craft. But, if you're a fucking artist you're doing a lot more than craft. & when I'm good I'm an artist. I'm not always that good, sometimes I'm a crafty mutherfucker & that's still on the record. Anything that made it to the record is at least crafty. But, if I only had a crafty thing outweighing an arty thing I made up for it with the performance & the production. That's why, to me, that fuckin' 10 song record that I'm putting out is my work of art & if you want to call it a fucking masterpiece ... on a certain day I might agree with you. On another day I might tell you to listen to this 1967 Pete Townsend demo because its better alone than with the WHO. I mean, we all change. You know what I mean? To me, "The Wind, The Rain & You & Me" is as close to a fucking singular entity as I could come up with in terms of showing the world what the fuck I could do. Look, I can write a really cool song. In fact, if you look at the structure of the song it's weird. Because it's a pop song & it has a hook but the verses! The meter changes, the first verse has a really odd number of measures compared to the second ... sorry, the second is different in meters than the first & third verses. The lyrics do run a narrative storyline & I can make a movie out of it. Since I worked in cinema & television production & always have done since I was 20 some years old. I do have film projects planned. My number one lady friend in California & I have been working on some ideas for quite some time to relate to this album & other things. I mean, she lives in Hollywood for a reason. Not because she likes the people. She likes 'em, but I'm her favorite & I'm here, so it's a bit difficult, but I'm so looking forward to seeing her this week because I haven't seen her since she came to see me when Paul McCartney played at Yankee Stadium, she just came in for like 5-6 days. You know, we just love each other & that's all fucking to it, man, we collaborate, just like Billy & I collaborate, just like Gary Lucas & I collaborate. Just like I'm collaborating with you right now.
AJ: Right now, man. I win, you win.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, I hope so.
AJ: That's my philosophy.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, dude, you're obviously a winner.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Continue what you're doing, man! You know what, you're fighting the good fight doing God's work. If there is a god you're doing his work.
AJ: Okay, I'll remember that when I get there!
UNCLE BOB NYC: I got a cover idea today, because on my ipod, it never fails, one of my favorite ... you can quote me on this ... one of my favorite fucking artists of all time & definitely my favorite debut album of all time is the first Curtis Mayfield solo record & the first track: "If there's a hell below/we're all gonna go." That is a motherfucker & we will do it. I digress again ...
AJ: That's alright.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Aaron, check this out, I'm gonna give you a video of me & Billy [Ficca of TELEVISION] & Sami Yaffa [of HANOI ROCKS/NEW YORK DOLLS]. We're all on stage at the Cat Club in Hollywood in October of 2007. We do completely off the cuff, the band never fucking heard it before, I pull it out on stage. We do "Across 110th St.", the Bobby Womack song that was on the film. A long extended jam. I do a rap on how I'm gonna fuckin' get Bush & Cheney in jail & cut their balls off with a machete. & the crowd is so hollin'. & the thing is it's like the single greatest performance of my life, Billy's life & Sami's life & there it is on video tape. & the fucking amazing thing about that is that ... I'm great at covers. I was always what you'd call a busker, since I was 9 years old. I did my very first gig in the summer of '69, Rapid Falls, when I'd just turned about 9 years old, right after Woodstock. Not 2 weeks after Woodstock I played my first gig & I was doing fucking ... not 2 weeks, it was a couple months because I remember what we were doing was me & this other guitar player each had about a month's worth of lessons. We played together "Jingle Bells" at a Cub Scout fucking meeting. It was in Cub Scouts & it was like show & tell, 'what'da got?' We got up to page 5 on the fucking Mel Bay guitar method & we both then played "Jingle Bells" on one string in fucking unison. But, you know what, Aaron, it was a gig. I was 9. I was fucking happy to do it.
AJ: It was a gig.
UNCLE BOB NYC: I got that one out of the way early. You could have stuck me in BEATLES shoes & your first gig is in front of a gazillion people just because of your fucking hair. That wouldn't have gone down too well because my mother wouldn't have been able to afford the psychiatry bills, if you know what I mean.
UNCLE BOB NYC: My family is the lower middle class. Psychiatrists were for rich Jewish people in the Upper East Side of fucking Manhattan. We did it the old fashioned way, man, we screamed & yelled at each other & broke shit, just like all good Italians.
AJ: The nice Italian way.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, yeah, but the thing is it was done with love & no damage to this boy. I mean, I'll never say a goddamn bad thing about anybody in my family, even the really fucked up people outside of my immediate family that are in my family, they're all loved. & when we all get together we have the fucking time of our life & dude, why would I even want to put out a record to the outside world when the best thing I could ever do is hang around with my family? I don't even need to play a guitar. They all ask me at Christmas 'what'da got, let's hear it.' They knew what was coming. Then they throw it on & they're like 'this shit is fucking nice.' They're always my biggest fan, which, of course, means that I better get out of the room because they're gonna like anything I do.
AJ: You wanna know what's good & bad.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, yeah, & I mean, everybody knows that. Any artist will tell you that ... at a certain point their family will support them. Or they just don't give a shit about them which is the same thing as support. & then like really troubled artists, like let's say somebody like Janis Joplin & Tim Buckley or Jim Morrison ... very very troubled family situation. The only thing they could fucking do good for themselves was to go out sing & play & write like depressing shit & live life so close to the edge that they end up accidentally killing themselves. Accidentally on purpose, it doesn't fucking matter, shit happens, it happens. But, my thing is ... I think half the reason it took me so long to ... kinda feel like I was getting somewhere is because ... I'm just too happy of a guy, you know, coming from like a really secure family background, but at the same time the people I've known for a really long time ... even John Kioussis at RockIt Scientist Records will tell you this too, you know John & I have been very good friends for a long time ... I've even heard from people on the street that I'm abusing cocaine or I'm on drugs. Dude, I'm gonna state right now here & on fucking record I have never been a drug user, never done chemicals in my life. I have never tripped. I was in a fucking GRATEFUL DEAD cover band for 8 years & I've never taken acid! No one has ever laid it on me. The only drugs that ever came into my fucking, & this is the God's honest truth, the only drugs that ever came into my system were prescribed by doctors & I'm always checking on my blood pressure. I mean a mild, fucking mild mood stabilizer in the worst of times. & does he smoke pot? Well, what the fuck do you think? I think it should be legalized & I think that R.J. Reynolds should be put out of business! I think people need to make up their own minds about it & I do believe that the country would be better off economically if we stopped pissing about & fucking passed it, made it legal. Everybody would chill out. Because, now I'm going to really digress into a long political thing.
AJ: That's alright.
UNCLE BOB NYC: I'm gonna stop myself there & let you direct the question about what my politics are when we talk about a song like "The Living Section".
UNCLE BOB NYC: That is my political masterpiece. Along with new ideas I come up with on the road, like I was speaking before about Curtis Mayfield & "...Hell Down Below...". I really want to do a cover of that. I mean, it would be burning. Sami Yaffa is such a great funk bass player & you'd never know it from his work with HANOI ROCKS or the NEW YORK DOLLS or anybody else. Let me tell you how good Sami is. The world would never know how amazingly gifted & talented Sami Yaffa is until you're in a band with him. The 3 of us, I'm telling you, man, the first time the 3 of us played one chord together with a back beat we all looked at each other & are fucking faces went up & go 'wow'. We are the greatest fucking rock band in the world that ever existed! & all we were doing was "Pictures Of Kate". My song at a rehearsal. That's all it took, man. Fucking downbeat & the groove was so strong we all looked around going 'wow'.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Sami is the glue, because as far as Sami is concerned the song is there & me & Billy Ficca are truly pros & we are the business. Sami's a pro. He's putting 2 & 2 together quite quickly. The songs are there. That song was a hit already in an underground in the U.K.. He's a smart guy. For him to be playing music with the drummer of TELEVISION, his favorite fucking band of the 70's ... I mean, that's like me getting a call to play rhythm guitar in a new version of the BEATLES with Paul & fucking Ringo. That would be mad! What would be wierder is playing lead. I mean, technically I could them both at the same time on the record, easily could do it, you know. The cool thing about playing in a trio is you get nothing but space if you've got good players. Like I really think that this band has no influence. But, if you're gonna compare us ... there's really like only one band that you can compare us to & that's the HENDRIX EXPERIENCE & we've got a world better bass player. Mitch Mitchell is Billy's favorite drummer, so there you go. Guess whose my favorite electric player? But, the thing about it is, obviously, we're not trying to sound like anybody. I'm just saying its a coincidence. Because I've written a lot of those songs over a long period of time. Trust me, I do not write songs with a fucking white Strat plugged into a Marshall stack trying to emulate Jimi's sound. All of my sound comes very off the cuff on overdubbing sessions, which, by the way, as many guitar tracks as there are on those records I only ever do one take on anything. Every performance on the record is one take. Every song, like when we go in as a band to cut things its only ever me & the drummer. Like I said, Billy's the drummer on everything. I think I told you this in an e-mail, but, me & Billy we did I think it was 17 songs in 6 hours. We went to the U.K. for a like a week & a half & we played gigs like one or 2 gigs a day. 2 different clubs literally on the same night. We rehearsed all day. We fucking stayed up for like 10-12 days. We came home & recuperated for 2 days & we're like "are you ready? Yeah, because we can go in any day. Yeah, let's fucking go in & get it all done." So we did like 17 songs in one day. Those are the basics. Now, the thing is, because of the way we record, because we improvise & we jam ... the arrangements are obviously worked out, but the thing is we are so sympathetic to the little nuances that the other guy does ... Aaron, we shouldn't, couldn't get identical takes ever, because we approach ... me & Billy are what you call jazzbos. Like hobos but our thing is jazz, we're jazzbos. We're just fucking disguised as fucking rockers. But, when me & Billy get together all we listen to is like fucking Miles Davis, John Coltraine, Ornette Coleman, Art Blakey. We barely ever put on a rock'n'roll record, unless its accompanied by a video & its from the 60's because we want to look at the guys we fucking love, you know? As much as we're into it ... we want to expand our consciousnesses & drugs & pot & alcohol aren't going to do it for us. But, like any, 50's, 60's, 70's or 20's or 30's jazz record by true artists, we'll even rip shit out by Robert Johnson, you know?
AJ: The old guys, the old blues guys.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Yeah, sure. Lightnin' Hopkins ... we'll throw on the CARTER FAMILY. I mean, when Billy & I hit the road, dude, we listen to everything. I'll even listen to Japanese Pop records & SPICE GIRLS. You know we fuck around with NPR & I'll take him over to Ameoba Records in L.A.. He'll like look around & then he'll see like TELEVISION records that he never knew got pressed & I'll buy 'em ... cause I buy everything & he buys nothing. He listens to the radio, so I, when we're on the road, I buy some things or I make mental notes. When we get home I burn him stacks of things. Because I have an archive of Billy's work. Like I have pretty much every TELEVISION bootleg & I've got Billy playing with other groups. I mean obviously there are quite a lot of TELEVISION gigs that circulate amongst the collectors. The biggest most enthusiastic tapers of the time are guys that we know. We being me & one or 2 other close friends of mine. We're like the biggest TELEVISION fans in the world, so it only kinda make sense for when I was ready to do a project & I was like really in between bands, it only made sense for me to find Ficca. But, I must be honest with you & tell you that is definitely not what happened. What happened was typically the best way for things to happen. It was completely organic. Completely organic. Because, when I met Ficca in '95 TELEVISION were done. & you know when they came back in '92 & made the record on Capital they were done in '93. So, they basically went for a year, which if you think of the cycle how these things go that makes sense, doesn't it? I mean, what happens is Tom [Verlaine] gets the advance & calls up the troops. But, the thing of it is Billy & Tom are best friends from like fucking 7th grade & they came to NYC together to do some music in like '69 or '70, & they started doing a thing with [Richard] Hell by '72 & they were pressing up their own records then & those records are amazing. The only influence you hear is the VELVET UNDERGROUND & the fucking 13TH FLOOR ELEVATORS & then the jazz influences, basically the horn players & shit. Like that first, I forget, what did they call it, I know I have it but ... the NEON BOYS, that's right. It's just the 3 of them as a trio & man, what a wierd sound they had ... because, once you add Richard Lloyd it really starts to sound like TELEVISION, I mean obviously once you take away Richard Hell & you bring in Fred [Smith], well, Tom Verlaine has control over everything, which is totally fucking great & it's a legitimate thing. Both those things, the NEON BOYS & the first line-up of TELEVISION with Richard Hell, they were so much more adventurous & so much more interesting, but they were so wierd! They were like never going to get off the ground, because Hell couldn't play or be in tune & he still had all these fucking insane ideas because he was a cartoon character, which in turn made Tom & Billy into cartoon characters. You know, it was just unreal. TELEVISION with Richard Hell was just a left thinking thing of Hell that lasted a nano-second. That group deserves a proper major label major distribution deal on some old tapes, because the world needs to know exactly how fucking wonderful & innovative & amazing all of them were. That nano-second moment in time needs to be relived by anyone with a rock'n'roll heart. Any of these assholes that buy CBGB's merchandise & run around with RAMONES t-shirts need to be reminded of who the fuck started it & it was definitely TELEVISION. That's what I have to say about that. Trust me, you're not going to get that from anybody but Tom & Tom ain't talking.
AJ: No he doesn't. He's pretty quiet, I know.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Quiet? He's a fucking church mouse. I see Tom almost everyday though at the Strand [Bookstore] & I see him on W 14th St.
AJ: Yeah, he lives in the area.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Because I know he comes into your [record] store.
AJ: No, he doesn't.
UNCLE BOB NYC: He used to go.
AJ: He used to. But, he's elusive.
UNCLE BOB NYC: That's why Billy stays busy doing other things. But, if we do half as well as people think we're going to do Tom's gonna ... he's just gonna call Billy & say 'look, how long is this fucking joker thing going to last because now I got work.' This ain't a joke, man, & you know what, you got to either wait or pay me a fucking shit ton of money because my thing is finally taking off & now suddenly instead of me working around Verlaine & TELEVISION it has to be the other way. Which is fair is fair, man, what goes around comes around. I mean, I've always been there for TELEVISION. You know I've done a lot of favors for them. I've gone on the road & done things for them. I fucking flew to England for some gigs with them. But, you know, I do that for a lot of bands. I did it with the NEW YORK DOLLS. All in a friendly capacity, but I've done things. I've shot video, done multi-track. SONIC YOUTH & I, you know, me & Lee [Ranaldo] & Thurston [Moore] & Steve [Shelley] are all really good friends & Lee & I are constantly in contact. I see Lee around & we get together, you know, we're guys that way. We've known each other for 10 or 11 years. Lee & Thurston are now & have always been my biggest fans in the business. They just think that everything we do is like a fucking perfect boob job on a supermodel. They think its tits. I'm telling you ... I once said shit like that & it got taken out of context. But, you know what ... a good record is still a good record.
UNCLE BOB NYC: So, like big fucking deal. & you know what, anything an artist says or does should create controversy if its a brilliant artist. I mean, speaking of brilliant artists, how much of a fucking genius artist is Madonna, seriously! Genius, because she based her career on controversy & coincidentally her music is fucking amazing!
AJ: She's great.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Every record. She only ever made one record that slipped financially & its still a very good album. Which, you know, is American Life. The only reason it slipped is because she pulled the political card.
AJ: But, it's still a very good album. Under-rated.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, the thing is ... & you can go on record with this ... I'm the biggest Madonna fan in the fucking world. I am & I always was from day one. Because you know what I see in her is the same drive that I had when I was 3. I just recognized her star rising before anybody in the world. Like really latched on her, man, before "Borderline" was a single & before anybody really knew what she looked like, as soon as I started seeing pictures of her, dude. I met her when she was like 19 & I thought she was just so vibey. There was something really fucking interesting about her. Like as soon as she got here we just crossed paths one day & it didn't last 2 minutes, but she told me her name was Madonna & we looked each other square in the eye. I believe I told her my name because she was very very cool & she was a hippie chick & I was a good looking guy with long hair & I played guitar. So the story starts to make sense as we go along, but its very very short. & I just looked her square in the eye after she said "Madonna" because she was so beautiful & such beautiful eyes & exactly my type. Italian & kind of hippyish, earthy & arty. & I looked at her & I said & I smiled a little bit like in that cocky sort of way that I would have done when I was 19 looking at a really cute short chick. Don't forget that being short had nothing to do with it as I was much taller. & she had fucking confidence to spare, like she was facing up to me but flirting with me at the same like only someone like her could do. So she kind of looks at me with that look & she smiled a half smile & she says "Madonna." & I looked back & said "That's a great name. I'm gonna remember that." Then, I don't remember anything except her sort of smiling or giving me a wink or something in a little exchange. I had to go, because I was just sort of ... I think we were just sort of checking each other out a little bit then. I said "Fuck this, man, this girl's amazing. I gotta go see what's up." You know what I mean?
AJ: Yeah, yeah, man, I know.
UNCLE BOB NYC: I'm always glad for those moments, because she won't remember it because that's been happening to her since she was born. Aaron, what I'm trying to tell you is, you know when you're born with it. She knew it & you know what, I fucking knew it too, because I was always told that & then I just had to prove it to myself & that's why I feel good about the record. Because I'm working real real real real real hard, man.
AJ: You're on your way to California now to do some stuff, right?
UNCLE BOB NYC: Yeah. That's gonna be a cakewalk, you know, it is what it is. Because I'm on vacation this week, but since we're getting dangerously close to the time I gotta, you know, I mean, it's like, look, I love talking to you on the phone, but again, still this is stuff that's got to be done while I'm on vacation. But, at least I'm sitting in this gorgeous place.
AJ: You got your cup of coffee!
UNCLE BOB NYC: I'll describe it to you. I'm in this really cool like motel. It's a Travel Lodge, but its amazing. I'm in Fort Lauderdale & its called the Red Carpet Inn & there's like fucking 300 rooms. & I'm in this courtyard which is mega & there's nobody in it & its like a public park. I'm sitting on a park bench with an umbrella with vending machines. It's 75 degrees out & no humidity, like perfect night. I was gonna go out to some coffeehouses, meet some chicks, which I think I'm gonna do.
AJ: Well, you still have time.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Dude, I can find them 24-8.
AJ: Well, then, you have plenty of time.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Aaron, all I gotta do is turn up on the strip. The places are open till 2 & then there's after hours. If I need to really make something happen Miami is only like fucking a half hour from here. You know what, Fort Lauderdale is just a suburb of Miami. But, the thing is, I'm tired. I'm not going to Miami because we're going to Miami on Saturday. It's like going to 14th St. on a Saturday. Dude, I live on 14th St.!
AJ: You don't want to go back.
UNCLE BOB NYC: I don't want to go there on a Saturday. I go to the Spotted Pig [Bar] like any night of the week because its on W. 11th & even though it's the most trendy place in the West Village I've been going there since day one & they treat me like family. You know what I mean? I go there.
AJ: Yeah, I know.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Dude, there's an amazing bar & restaurant in the basement of my building & I am definitely family there. But, the thing is on a Saturday there's just too many people around & there's just too many tourists, so I'm not going to Miami tonight. & I'm having a good time talking to you here from this fucking picnic table smoking a cigarette. I'm drinking this really tall cup of joe & I know you're getting a lot of coffee because we've been going for awhile & I've only drank about 4 ounces of this. By the way, what's the next question, brother?!
AJ: Well, listen, actually, we're getting closer to the time I gotta let you go, but I wanted to ask a little bit about ...
UNCLE BOB NYC: Let's talk about the single then. Or, what did you want to ask me?
AJ: I actually just wanted to ask who inspires you as a songwriter?
UNCLE BOB NYC: Oh, right, sure, I can definitely answer that. No problem. Well, obviously none of us would be here in rock'n'roll, at all, ever, if you're born in 1960 ... the BEATLES are the be all & end all. You know the BEATLES invented something that is always going to be emulated. Because, the thing is, they wanted to be a combination of Buddy Holly & Elvis. Okay, I always loved Buddy Holly, but I had to discover Holly later, you know what I mean, because I discovered the BEATLES at that moment. So as a self-contained unit as songwriters & musicians & everything about them, the BEATLES are my number one influence, okay. As far as lyricist goes there is only one guy, come on, it's gotta be Bob [Dylan].
UNCLE BOB NYC: Come on. Dylan is the number one guy. Also, of course, I can name names & go through the usual list of 'yeah, when it comes to genius' ...
AJ: Well, you definitely have a storyteller approach to your writing that Bob has.
UNCLE BOB NYC: I do & the reason is because I've studied my folk music & I probably know, & I'm not kidding you, over 2000 covers & a lot of folk music. Lots of it because I've been playing for forever, folk stuff, bluegrass stuff, I was in a GRATEFUL DEAD cover band. Actually, as songwriters I think the DEAD are really under-rated. I think Garcia & Robert Hunter were great.
AJ: Robert Hunter, definitely under-rated.
UNCLE BOB NYC: They still have an Americana approach & Hunter is his own man, but like he's the psychedelic side's version & his own version of some of the influences of Dylan & Dylan is a direct influence, but Dylan recognizes how unique & wonderful he is & Dylan has co-written things with Hunter. So, Bob Hunter is it.
AJ: Yeah, really under-rated.
UNCLE BOB NYC: He's very very big & very very high on my list. & I'd say, as far as women goes Patti Smith is my favorite fucking writer. I'd say my true favorite writers are Bob & Patti. Without a dout. But, as far as pop singer-songwriters its the BEATLES. Then there are all the old guys, man, you know like Rodgers & Hart, because I'm a huge Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Mel Torme guy ... But, hey, look, if you want to get to me take all 4 of the BEATLES, Sinatra's attitude & personality because we're the same fucking thing we're just a 100 years apart, but like our attitude & the way we came up, good parents, we were supported, do this, do that, we got enough success me & Frank to continue to work & get recognized & always go go go go. Like I am so, I don't model myself after Sinatra, its just coincidentally, like how else do you make it, in any business, especially in show business? You just got to put in the hours & there's fucking lots of them. But, as I've read many many books on Sinatra I do see the parallels. I see parallels with a lot of people & Madonna. Madonna has worked her tits off & I have nothing but love & respect for her & I wish her the best on [Superbowl] Sunday as well as for her new record & everything she does as she's fucking wonderful. I just wish she would lose some of the dumb shit. I don't think she needs to do some of the things she does, but you know she's just a human being & she wants to have fun, so if she wants to have a 24 year old Hispanic boyfriend, go let her. I wouldn't like to have a 24 year old girl? I mean, of course I would. It doesn't fucking matter.
AJ: Well, listen, Bob, I gotta let you go.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Okay, bro.
AJ: Any final words?
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, I would like people to take a serious listen to both "She Don't Know Me" & "Dirty Town". The reason that we picked "She Don't Know Me" was by committee. I did write it about my favorite person in the world & it was written about 3 weeks after I met. Now she does know me, but at the time she didn't know me. I think you'll hear a lot of things in there. It doesn't sound like anything else but it is pop. There's a Celtic thing [in the guitar tuning], there's a psychedelic thing. It's very edgy. It demonstrates me to the ninth, because its a very good song with a very good lyric. Very very very strong hook & it rocks like a fucking bitch from hell. I'll say the same thing about "Dirty Town". It's a much older song, but it does rock, the attitude & direction are the same. "Dirty Town" is NYC street rock & if there's ever gonna be a fucking band that is NYC street rock, well the RAMONES are dead & all the other bands of that era are gone, but guess what, I'm doing this. I wrote this song in '82 actually fucking on the Bowery & the band speaks for themselves, because they were there too. So, there you go. Those are the 2 songs, along with "The Wind, The Rain, You & Me". So, we will talk another time or you'll see us. I'll come into the store or you can come over & visit my studio.
AJ: We need to do that, Bob. I do want to talk more to you, I've just got a commitment right now, but definitely.
UNCLE BOB NYC: When I get back in town you're welcome to come by because we can hit the bar/restaurant downstairs & you can come upstairs for a few minutes, have a look at some records & we can just keep talking & record it.
AJ: I'd love to do it, I love to talk about music. That's what I do, man.
UNCLE BOB NYC: As long as you keep recording.
AJ: I'll put the camera right there & you're on, I don't care. We can do it.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, dude, I'll tell you, you should care, because the thing is we're using all this footage.
AJ: I mean I don't care but absolutely, I'm up for it.
UNCLE BOB NYC: I know, but, Aaron, if we start to get noticed you'll make money with all this footage.
AJ: Well, right now, my goal is to share your music because I like what I heard.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, hey!
AJ: That's the first important step.
UNCLE BOB NYC: Well, that's the first reason I decided to talk to you. You've got brilliant taste in music.
AJ: Oh no, I just know what I like & I hear so much at work & at home I just know when I hear something ... I like it. It's immediate. It just hits you. It's like 'I like it.' & I hear a lot of stuff I don't say that to.
UNCLE BOB NYC: You got big ears & hats off to you, man. Kudos.