An Interview with, Duane Bruce, writer of the memoir "Hang The DJ"

April 24, 2017

 

 

 

 

I’ve known you since what, 1984?  Or earlier? 

I started at WTOS in 1982. I think we started talking when I went full-time in 1983.

 

I guess those who read this can also read my Foreword to your book for more on this.  Or readers can read find Duane’s memoir here: Hang The DJ.   

 

The book is  an incredible read, chock-full of Duane’s stories as he journeys through radio from the 80s to now, at WTOS, WFNX, WBCN, and WXNZ.  And there are black and white photos in the book!  Here's Duane and Iggy Pop in color for you here.  Photo credit:  Julie Kramer.

 For those of you who remember those days, there will be an element of nostalgia mixed in with things you might have not known.  For those who don’t remember, this is a lesson in cool music and what radio was and still can be. 

 


Do you want to tell little about yourself? Perhaps something not many people know? Although, they should really read the memoir for more of this, maybe you can give readers a hint of the goodies in store.

People may think that radio folk get into the business because we love to hear our voices being broadcast. Not true, at least in my case. I hate the sound of my voice, and have no idea how others tolerate it. My interest was two fold; the music . . . I just wanted to play the best music that is available. Always did, always will. That commitment never wavered.

 

Secondly, the theater of the mind aspect of it really intrigued me. You have no real idea what is going on behind the mic, only what I tell you. There has to be a trust between the DJ and the listener. But we abuse that trust, albeit for fun reasons only. Example: you hear, but do not see me. You hear me tell you that I am pouring a shot of whiskey. You hear the clink of the glass, the liquid being poured into it and finally, the consumption. From that second forward, you believe I am doing shots of whiskey, when in fact, it is just water. You trusted me. Life can fool you at any time.

 

What question (or questions) have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer?

Would you have been good in The Beatles? Answer: No, I don't play any instruments. Runner up question: Did you kill Laura Palmer? The answer is yes.

 

I don’t want to be a spoiler, I know the book well, and I love it.  I have my favorite stories from it as well, but I don’t want to give them away. I’ll let you take these questions and run with them (but don’t run away okay?) 

In your memoir, Hang The DJ, were there parts that were hard to write about?

Yes, you want to be true to the story but you have to have consideration of others involved. You want to get the point across without implicating anyone. Message without crucifixion can be difficult sometimes. Also, writing about my Dad (RIP) was tough as well. Like anyone, he had his personal demons, but I wanted the reader to know the musical side of him. His overall influence on his son.

 

What did you enjoy most about writing Hang The DJ?

The cathartic aspect of going back over a section of your time on earth. Reliving the good and the bad, to see where you came from and went to. Even though it was I that lived it all, when I read it back, it does not seem possible. The good steps, the mis-steps, the outright falling down and getting back up again, I did that? I did that. Listing your accomplishments is one thing, writing a book about them is quite different and rewarding.

 

What do you hope readers gain from this book?

That I always had their backs, musically speaking. I put it all on the line many times, so that the listener could benefit from it all.  And the sense of humor that follows it all. I also hope that the reader gets a good take on what the average day of a marginally successful radio personality was like. It was far from factory work. There is art involved, both in product and presentation.

 

What is your favorite part of the book?

Making a certain person be held accountable for his actions, both in a real law aspect, as well as a fake law aspect. If you read it, you will understand.

 

Any morals or lessons for us?

Be prepared to take it on the chin a few times in your life. Nothing should be taken for granted. Take some chances, shake things up when needed. Most of all, stand your ground.

 

Who designed your book cover? 

The cover art is a painting by a wonderful artist named Alex Arcadia. He was just an average listener to my overnight show, “Radio Free Boston.” He worked all night on his art, like I did. I spoke many times on the air about these 'flying space slugs' that could be seen late night in the studio. Dark, shadowy movements that would appear on the wall, and then move around the walls. I described them on the air, and he decided to paint them. His piece is incredible, and it came from my words. Painted words, without a single letter. The fact that he portrayed me in the pic as a DJ with a cross-shaped mic, gave it a “Tommy” feel to it, which I just absolutely loved. That painting hung on my wall for decades (he gifted it to me), and I knew that if I did write a memoir, the cover would be that painting.

 

What questions do you wish I’d ask you?

Did I kill Laura Palmer? The answer is no.

 

Also, where does my inspiration come from when doing a free-format show, that allows me to be 100% in charge of the music and content? A one word answer: Life. When you want to get a point across about something political, or maybe even personal, go to your music collection. Honestly, doing a free-format show is exactly like making the best mixed tape that you ever made for the person that was special to you. Well, I get to make that mixed tape every time I am on. The listener is the special person . . . and the tape is constantly updated.

You wear many creative hats, you’re a legendary DJ—which is a complete art form for you (**read the book to know more about this part of Duane, and listen to his Friday night radio Rock and Parole After Dark radio shows on Soundcloud.com**), you’ve also played the voice of Santa for Infinite Santa 8000, you write both fiction and non-fiction.   Did I leave anything out?  Do you want to elaborate on any or all of these?

You are very kind. I did love doing the Santa role, and it was one of the few times that I did like my voice. Maybe because I got to change it into a character type voice . . . a cartoon-y one. I hope people will check the shows out on Soundcloud.com. Right now, I have never been more about the politics of music and the music of politics. This is truly a 'make it or break it' time in our history. It's tense and intense. I try to get that point across, but temper it with some much needed humor. I will do my best to make you think, keep you dancing and laughing until there is change. Then, we can re-assess from there.


 

When writing:

Pen or type writer or computer?

Computer. Only because it is the easiest. We suffer enough.


Do you write Alone or in public?

Alone. I have rituals. No, you can not know them.


Do you write to music or in silence?

Silence for me. I blast music after as a reward.

How do you find or make time to write?

It has to call out to me. I will know the right moment, the muse, etc.

 

What tactics do you have when writing?

I know that proper procedure is to outline. Honestly, I have never used one that was not assigned. I like to wing it and then re-work it to make the pieces fit.

 

What projects are you working on now?

I am currently still doing my radio work at WXNZ, those are the shows posted on Soundcloud.com. I am also writing a vampire story for the next Macabre Maine anthology. Right now, vampires are a little overdone, so I am trying to give this a different spin....a vampire with a fetish. But, it really just comes down to how people treat people, even if they are biting them in the neck.

 

The vampire genre goes in cycles, like most things. Big in the 60's/70's Barnabus Collins and Dracula owned my childhood. But, by the 80's we were more into the gore of slasher films and then with the influx of cash, we went back to making the same pictures as remakes. The production values were higher, but that does not mean that the movie itself was any better.

 

Monsters are in almost everyone's life at some point . . . if not under your bed or in your closet, then perhaps they were out in the streets doing unspeakable things. Those are the real monsters. The human ones, if you can call them that. I believe this is why Killer Bob on Twin Peaks is so successful at scaring the shit out of you, because he has a human face, and is clad in Levi's! He can be in your face, about to have his way with you, or he simply could be in line behind you at McDonald's. The most effective scares come out of the everyday life. Monsters now are dictators and presidents. The cycle will evolve again just as it has for Superman and Batman. We tweak it each time to get it flush with today's world, but the world changes so fast. Write from the heart and create your own version of a monster. There is no lack of influence anymore.

 

What do your plans for future projects include?

Possibly write a novel. I have a story that I have kicked around for the past decade or so. It's a child kidnapping story, and it's very dark (obviously.) I scare myself every time I go near it. I would like to see it come to fruition. I like to write about places I know well, so the detail shows. This takes place in Boston.

 

What do you like to read in your free time?

I love to read biographies of people that I am interested in. You learn so much about what makes them tick.

 

I know where to find you, but for those who are seeing this for the first time, where can we find you online?

You can follow me on Facebook, and check the weekly shows out on Soundcloud.com. There is a new show posted every Friday night.

Thank you Duane, it's been fun being able to catch up and pass this on to your listeners, readers, and to gain some new listeners and readers in the process.

Click this link for Duane's memoir:  Hang The DJ

 

 

 


 

 

 

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