Bernie Torme Releases Dublin Cowboy Triple Album, Spring 2017

Legendary guitarist Bernie Torme has enjoyed a career in rock that only few others have equalled. For over 40 years he has achieved huge success with bands such as Gillan, Ozzy Osbourne, Atomic Rooster, Desperado and GMT. Whilst within that time Bernie has still released solo records, in recent years this has been his sole focus. In 2014, he released the incredible double album Flowers and Dirt and 2016 saw this being followed up by the Blackheart record. Only a year on, Bernie is back and this time with a triple album. Dublin Cowboy comprises of a full electric album, a live album and, perhaps the most unexpected output from Bernie, an acoustic album. We catch up with Bernie at his home in Kent to talk about how this whole project came together. Sitting in Bernie’s garden, we are enjoying the bright sunshine and the calming sounds of the countryside’s wildlife, a stark contrast to the packed and beer-soaked venues Bernie played during his April UK tour. As we relax on our recliners, the conversation begins…


You have just released Dublin Cowboy, a triple album comprising of a full electric record, an acoustic record and a live record. This is a hugely ambitious project. How did the idea to do this come about?


I’ve always wanted to do an acoustic album and I basically thought if I do an acoustic album, no one would buy it or want to listen to it because everyone would be thinking ‘what's he doing an acoustic album for? That's not what he does!’ So then I thought perhaps I'm able to carry it off if I have an electric studio album as well and have it as a double album. Then a guy contacted me from a gig we’d done in South Shields in January 2016 and he said he had 16 track recording of the entire gig and asked if I wanted it. I said yes! He sent it down and it was great, which made me think maybe a triple album is an idea. I can do 3 things and that's an interesting kind of thing in terms of the marketing end because how many people have done triple albums? You can probably count them on 1 hand. So that's how it happened. It wasn't actually a strategy, it was just an accident!


Well it's a really fortunate accident because what has come together here is a really unique package for the fans in that it really showcases a different side to you, especially the acoustic material. Did it feel left-field for you doing an acoustic album?


Yes, absolutely because the way you record an electric album is entirely different. Going back to the first records I was ever involved with, the first thing is you go in and get a basic drum track and a bass track. You may have a guitar track initially too as a backing track but you always concentrate on getting a decent drum track. Doing an acoustic album that really didn't apply so I was struggling mentally around how I was going to do it. You have to have a concept of where the track begins and ends, tempo and all of that, so it was extremely odd for me to do that. And also hard because I hadn't had any experience. Even in terms of tracks in the past that have had half an acoustic part, such as a repetitive kind of acoustic part in them, you always record the drum track first of all. On this album, all of the drums came last so they were structured more as an orchestral thing. It was a completely different experience and awfully interesting. I realised that at 65 how little I know (laughs).


When creating your acoustic album, were you completely on your own in the studio?


It was all initially completely on my own. Anyone else who was on it was on as an over-dub. So the songs and the tracks had been constructed and if I thought that say I wanted drums on the track Shine, I called up Ian (Harris – drummer) and asked if he was able to come across and play drums on part of a track. And he did. So it wasn't a band album in that sense. Stuff like the strings – I played a lot of the keys myself – it was fairly much a solo thing. I would probably have played drums on it too if I was able but I cannot play drums to save my bloody life! (Laughs).

Well let's pick up on the other instruments that have crept into the acoustic record. As well as keyboard, there are violins on there and collectively they help to create a real mood. That's one of the really interesting things about this record. There's something really powerful about one man and a guitar, and we have that flavour, but what we also have is a really emotive ambience. How conscious were you of the need to bring in those additional instruments?


Pretty strongly because having recorded the track and having done the vocals, I was listening back and thinking ‘that's too bare, it doesn't really go any place’. Something like Cirkus I had kind of a hurdy-gurdy pattern on it at the beginning. It didn't work all the way through so it was really to try to add the atmosphere and create dynamics on it. I think the only track on it that I played entirely solo at the time was Demons and at the end I just added some Hammond organ because it’s a bit religious sounding. It was all just trial and error to be honest. The difficulty is to try to keep it simple and sparse, and not too polished, but to have the other instruments in there. I always try to imagine it in a context in a room and thinking about what I would like to hear with it. It worked!


You again decided to embark upon a Pledge Music campaign to fund the album and yet again you achieved 100% of your target within a day with a closing 406% at the end of the campaign. How does it make you feel to have this incredible fan support?


Humbled. I terms of any of the pledges, I haven’t expected it. I tried to make this pledge an enjoyable pledge for everyone and do extras like the explanations of the Gillan tracks. It's hard for me to think that people want something they haven't heard because I don't think they do. I think they are hoping that the album turns out okay but they don't know, and largely at the beginning of the pledge, I don't know either! I try to make it as entertaining and as contact-full as I can.


You have just completed your UK tour to support Dublin Cowboy taking in 8 shows in 8 days. That's quite an intense undertaking. Is this a case of ‘needs must’ from an economic perspective? 


Largely it is ‘needs must’ because of the economy though having said that, it's as easy to do a group (of shows) around a weekend, obviously because of travelling, and the tour was well-routed. It was actually not really my idea. The agent asked me if I wanted to do it and just kept adding dates in. I didn't know if I could do 8 dates! The problem is that it isn't actually anything other than the singing end of it. It really takes it out of you because even when I was with Ian (Gillan) he would only do 4 days in a row and I'm told he will now only do 2 in a row and has a break. So it was quite hard in terms of that. If you are basically shouting for an an hour and a half every night you go hoarse! Other than that it's just incredibly exhausting and incredibly dehydrating because the gigs are so hot. You really just have to pace and drink lots of water and salt. Awfully rock ‘n’ roll you know! (Laughs)


You’ve been playing some songs from Dublin Cowboy on your recent tour. What's the fans reaction been to the new material?


Really good! They've gone down well! At the beginning the majority of the audience didn't know the songs at all because the album hadn't come out. The majority of the people in any audience aren't pledgers, maybe only 10-20 in any audience, but the songs have been going down great!


What's you're calendar looking like for 2017?


We have some festivals at the end of the summer and we’re looking at doing UK dates again at the end of November or beginning of December. I'd like to have something out for that but I don't know if it will be new or just old reissues because I don't think I have the time to get a new album sorted. The other plan, that people have been asking me for for years, is that I'm seriously thinking about doing an autobiography.

As our conversation draws to a close, we again reflect on what a huge challenge it has been for Bernie to create Dublin Cowboy, of course from an artistic perspective where he took himself completely outside of his comfort zone but also in his unwavering commitment to produce a quality package for his fans. It's also incredibly exciting to ponder the possibility of a Bernie Torme autobiography. We can only imagine the stories he has amassed throughout his career and without a doubt this would be an excellent read, but to embark upon a project such as this takes time, perhaps more so than writing a new album. With live commitments throughout the year, we hope Bernie finds a window of opportunity to boot up his laptop.


Dublin Cowboy is available now at www.amazon.co.uk, iTunes and www.bernietorme.bandcamp.com. Find out more at www.bernietorme.co.uk. Also, check out the video for Turn Out The Lights to get a taste of what a Bernie Torme live show is all about.