Friends and Neighbors: Bead expert, drummer Bruce Tyler
By GWEN OREL
In “Friends and Neighbors” we spotlight interesting Montclairites doing interesting things. Some of them you might have heard of, others you might not. Answers have been edited for space. Got someone you think we should write about? Drop a line to email@example.com.
Bruce Tyler, drummer with Black Lace Blues (facebook.com/blacklaceblues), grew up in Montclair and lives here still. In addition to percussion, Tyler studied piano for several years. An advisory board member to the Montclair Arts Alliance, he’s also on the Arts Advisory Committee of Montclair Township, and was part of the now-defunct Montclair Arts Council.
Tyler, who graduated from Montclair State University with a degree in anthropology, founded Black Lace Blues in 2006, inspired by black doilies at The Soda Pop Shop, which used to be on Bloomfield Avenue in Montclair. Black Lace Blues performs often at Hat City Kitchen, Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q, The DLV Lounge and many others. This past weekend, the band performed for the first time in the South Mountain Blues Festival in the South Mountain Reservation, West Orange. Tyler spoke to us at Trend Coffee & Tea House, with Black Lace Blues harmonica player, Montclairite Larry “The Lip” Lipschultz.
Why is your degree in anthropology?
This is interesting. I left my job of 19 years, manager of Timeless Treasures bead store, I was the store historian and one of the buyers, in 2008 not long before the store closed. I was trying to figure out what to do, so I applied to Montclair State to finish my music degree. Essex County College kind of flubbed it. My transcript got all screwed up and I missed all the auditions. My wife at the time said, “You like anthropology, why don’t you do that?” So I majored in that, and was able to take music courses as well.
Why is it important to you to be part of committees and organizations about the arts?
I live in a community. It’s based in community arts. It’s a learning experience for me to give back to the community.
How long have you played the drums? What made you start?
Fifty years. It’s interesting. When I was in elementary school at Glenfield, which is now a middle school I think, we had these musical tests, they went around and tested you on various instruments. They found out my aptitude was for drums.
Do you have any drum heroes?
I have a couple: Max Roach, Buddy Rich, Papa Jo Jones.
What do you love about playing the drums?
Exploring the rhythms. I saw a marching band and that’s what got me into it.
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Did you play in the marching band in high school?
No. I never had any interest in it, I just wanted to play in jazz bands, rock and roll bands, things of that nature. Black Lace Blues is a blues band. And some rock and roll covers, but primarily blues based.
Larry “The Lip:” It’s eclectic. We do some reggae, and some fusion.
What is it you love about the blues? Some people say it’s an art form from the past.
It encompasses the past. Blues like any other art form continuously evolves. Music evolves. Other than the shore area, between Montclair, Verona and Glen Ridge we have more blues players than anywhere in the state.
It’s a type of music that speaks to you, it’s heartfelt, and it tells a story.
Some people think of Albert King, B.B. King, and that’s the end of it. But there’s Delta
Blues. There’s blues that’s actually jazz. Jazz comes from the blues, as does Gospel. It comes from a very raw inner feeling, life experience.
I’ve always held the belief that you can technically play the blues, but if you haven’t experienced the true life experience, good times or hardship, you can express it technically, but you don’t have it here.
You can express good times in the blues?
Well, there’s good blues and there’s sad blues. The blues is how you feel.
I always listened to the blues. When I was younger, when Jimi Hendrix was playing, he was playing the blues. A lot of people don’t realize that. Jimi Hendrix was shunned by a lot of African Americans because they thought he was playing white rock and roll, or acid rock. He wasn’t. He was playing music that was blues-based. “I Shot the Sheriff,” which is a cover of Bob Marley. “Purple Haze.”
“Purple Haze” is the blues?
Yeah. Listen to the chords. It’s the feel. He uses blues chords. He didn’t use jazz chords. Even when he was playing rock music, he came from the blues.
MEET THE NEIGHBOR: BRUCE TYLER
Family: I’m single.
Left handed or right: Left.
First job: In a laundromat when I was in sixth grade. I folded the clothes, put them in the machine, started the machine, and made deliveries. There used to be a big commercial laundromat in Montclair and the guy was looking for a delivery kid and he walked out and said “Are you looking for a job?” I had a bicycle. I ran home and asked could I take this job at the laundromat. They said yeah.
Last job: The bead store, Tia Marie’s Beads, in Montclair.
Best gig ever: Maplewoodstock.
Hobby: Collecting beads. I have a very extensive bead collection. I did three exhibits at the library.
Beach, forest or mountains: I’ll take the woods.
Vacation spot: I fell in love with Ocean Grove.
What I want for my birthday (which is): My birthday is Nov. 7. I want to hit the Lottery.
Today’s earworm: “Alien” doesn’t really have music, but the sound is in my head.
Favorite drink: Tequila sunrise.
Favorite dessert: Apple pie.
Favorite condiment: I used to like mayonnaise sandwiches. Mayonnaise.
Hero(es): People are going to think I’m weird, but Colin Powell is one of my heroes. He was never a rich kid. He went to ROTC, got good grades, and rose to the top on his own.
Last book read: “Cheaper by the Dozen.”
Last TV show watched: CNN.
Last Movie seen: “BlackKkKlansman.”
I want to meet (alive or dead): W.E.B. Dubois. He was a great orator, and another one that rose. Or Carl Sagan. I love space travel.
If I weren’t me: I wish I could be an astronaut.
Job fairy wish (no world peace): I want to play Madison Square Garden.