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NRBQ: A Great Bar Band? Think Again

Terry Adams and NRBQ will have their hojo working Dec. 7 at the Paramount in Peekskill.

We Travel The Spaceways album cover. Courtesy Paramount Hudson Valley
We Travel The Spaceways album cover. Courtesy Paramount Hudson Valley

NRBQ is playing at the Paramount on Dec. 7. Founder and front man Terry Adams took time from a recording session to talk with Patch about the band, the music and the upcoming album.

Patch: On the web, NRBQ is characterized as a great bar band?

Adams: I see that written sometimes—some critic wrote it and it just got repeated. I don't even know what that means. We play all kinds of concerts and all kinds of festivals. It could have been said by someone with a pretty shallow viewpoint, or ears: They're not really listening to what we play if they think that.

Patch: You started NRBQ because you had a vision. How has that changed over 40 years?

Adams: It's changed very little. I don't know why, but I had my own take on culture, music and whatever else, and I just stuck with it. I have had great musicians come along and help me take it places. 

I never had a desire to sign up for things. In school I couldn't stand to line up -- I would start tying my shoe. 

My vision, I guess, was to take the sound that we absorbed and put it back out there. I don't consciously go and try to do that. What kinds of cultural music comes into your ears as you're growing up will have an effect on you, you don't have to plan on it. 

I've always been fortunate to be with the best musicians. Whoever's been in the band, you cannot deny, have been great, great players. 

I've had the gift of longevity. It's like the boys in the neighborhood would go for a race and start running. They were so much faster than me. Eventually I would pass them, they'd be laying on the sidewalk having run out of gas. I just kept going. 

Patch: What was your worst show in terms of things going wrong?

Adams: I remember being in Sweden somewhere. For some reason—maybe the band ate all the food backstage—these guys decided before we went on to detune all our instruments. Every note has a string that has to be tuned on what I play. We walked out and not one note was what it was supposed to be. We made the best of that, and wound up playing one of our best sets. What started out to be sabotage ended up being interesting. 

Patch: What do you prefer now, concerts or recording?

Adams: Playing live is what keeps us happy. That's what it's about, playing for people, going to a place and tuning it up to what we think the place needs. You start a certain way and end another way, and hope to leave it where you need it. 

Certain places will start playing recorded music as soon as you get offstage. That's a shame, because you work so hard to get the vibrations where they are. It's something that I've gone up against my whole career. So now we sort of settle for no recorded music for at least 10 minutes before we walk out on stage. 

Patch: How do Peekskill and the Paramount fit into your tour schedule?

Adams: We've done something different this year. Normally we we play a pretty good week or two over the Thanksgiving period and then again over the end of the year—Christmas, New Year's. This time I wanted to actually not be playing during those times, instead play a small amount between the two, just to have time off for a change. So we're playing just a few places in December. We'll start up again in January. 

Patch: You're recording now—when's the next album coming out?

Adams: Well, every time we get together we record new music. I like to keep recording so we usually end up with maybe 30 songs recorded, then put a release together. 

We could have stopped 6 months ago….we just keep going. Pretty soon we should have an answer to that question. This band, I like to think, the difference is that good music is made by personalities, where you can hear the personality through the instrument they play. Whereas some music is just the instrument -- if you can play it you have the job. 

Patch: OK, then. As someone who plays a toy piano, how would you describe your own personality?

Adams: It's just a sound, one sound. 

I had a pickup put on one of those for a few years, and plugged it into a Fender amp. It was one way to hear it—but those sounds will go right through your brain. 

They're pretty fragile. I haven't used them recently on stage. I have some nice ones, from different countries. 

Patch: What are you listening to these days?

Adams: I listen—you may think I'm just saying this, but I really do listen to the sound of the birds. Not the band the Byrds. I like all kinds of sounds and if you just let it all in, if you hear it as one thing, it can be really inspiring. And you never know what's going to sound good. Sometimes a car horn sounds good. 

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