John Bush – Interview

Birmingham Live’s Arianna had the chance to talk with John Bush ahead of the Armored Saint gig. Space was at a premium in the busy venue but John was happy to talk with us about his heritage, the beauty of playing live and the future for Armored Saint.

I’m told you were half Italian, is that true?

I am half Italian, my father was Italian his ancestry actually came from Sicily.

They came over from Albania apparently so we were told to Ellis Island and down to New Orleans and then over to Los Angeles and the last name is actually Buscicchia and that’s who I am
I guess. I just recently found out that my grandfather was illiterate so he was only
able to write thatout when he came to America, he got the B-U-S-H and somebody is like ‘that’s it that’s your name now!’. Funny ’cause everyone says ‘Bush? That not an Italian name!’ Well of course not but that happened to a lot of people when they came to America.

So tonight is your last gig in the U.K.?

Tonight is the last gig in the U.K, we’re playing Birmingham.

You’ve not played Birmingham before?

Never in the history of the band.

But it’s the birth place of heavy metal!

We’re very excited to be here for the first time ever. It’s actually ridiculous and insane that we have never played places like Birmingham and Manchester or Wales or Dublin.
You know it’s just stupid but here we are and we’re trying to make up for lost time and we’re
excited to finally be here.

How was Hammerfest?

Hammerfest was actually really fun.
They kind of juggled around the schedules, I had a personal thing that I was trying to make work at the same time originally when Hammerfest was offered to us and
then they… it’s a long story… but in any case we had to change some of the dates around and so 
we ended up playing on Thursday which was like the first day, kind of pre day but we saw a great 
crowd and I thought we tore it up actually. We went out last at midnight, was kind of late but either
way it was good. It was great, it was fun to play there and I think we did really well and you know we had never played Wales before and of course there are people from all over who go to it but it was still great. We found this cool little, I can’t remember the name of it, really nice little restaurant not too far, maybe like an hour from where the site is the day before and it was great, we had this amazing meal, it was just fun. We had a good time.

Do you remember your first ever gig?

First ever gig? In Armored Saint or even before that? The first gig ever was a talent show that I did at junior high and me and Joey were in a band with all these other guys in ninth grade and we played ‘Feels Like the First Time’ by Foreigner and ‘Rock N’ Roll’ from Zeppelin and it probably sounded horrible but I was only 13, 14?
And then the first Armored Saint show was at a Catholic high school believe it or not! So that was kind of weird and cool. I don’t know, I think the bass player maybe had a girlfriend that went there or somehow he made it work but it was cool.

What’s your favourite thing about playing live?

Playing live? Playing live! You know it’s awesome!
The singing, trying to sing in key, having a good time. Bantering with the crowd, having chemistry with the band, changing the set around. 

Everything that goes with being a live performer,
sometimes not even being on! I think just these days with everything, with so many people doing stuff on tape and how not everything is live, you know with Armored Saint you get what you get. You get a  garage band that’s sincere and has a lot of chemistry with the members, you know it’s it’s always going to feel like it’s honest and I think that’s the most important thing.

Well you guys have been together a long time 

We have been together a long time and the beauty of Armored Saint is other than Dave Prichard (who was a guitarist who died in 1990) it’s the same dudes, the same people, the same guys so I think that’s really awesome. 

I really treasure that and think its a beautiful thing and you know our history goes back since were were little boys you know? Since nine years old.

You all went to school together, is that right?

Yeah: Joey, Gonzo, Phil and I, we’ve known each other literally since we were 9 years old, 10 years old, we have a long history of friendship that goes 
before the band and I think
that says a lot; this is something rare.

Do you all still get on with each other or do you do little things to annoy one another?

You know what? We’re a lot better then we used to be actually! I think it’s a sign of maturity, we’re all  guys in our fifty’s and I think that we just kind of kind of respect each other’s space.

I mean that’s not to say that we don’t have disagreements or have occasional bickerings but really for the most part … I mean we’re out here with no crew, with one guy who’s our driver, Jay who’s been doing great, we just met him and other than that it’s like it’s the same, you know it’s only us, we have no crew, it’s just pretty bare bones and there havn’t been any fights, anything you know? It’s pretty cool, I mean knock on wood hopefully there won’t be (any fights) tonight and then we would have an argument free trip which says a lot considering that most bands do not have that.

Do you still see yourselves a bit like a ‘garage band’?

I do. I think it is kind of where we started you know? I mean, look we had dreams that we were going
to be some mega band playing you know the O2 Arena here like anybody else and then you know the  
music business kinda punches you down and you realise ‘woah!’. Because we started when we were young, first record came out when we were like twenty and twenty one we were doing a tour with Quiet Riot and Whitesnake in America playing arenas, it was the first thing we really did on tour so you know we had pretty big ambitions and high hopes and then it didn’t pan out the way we kind of hoped. But that’s life.

Why do you think that is?

I think there’s probably a slew of reasons: could have just been luck could’ve been poor business, it could have been just it was not our destiny.

Probably all those reasons but you know you can’t think about it too much. I think when we talked about having a career we kind of wanted to just have a long career
and of course you want to have a lot of money, who’s going to say ‘no I didn’t want to make any money’? ‘Course you did! But I think that in the end you just kind of want it to be truthful, make some music that has credibility, integrity. Have some great performances and do the things you actually can control. Other things about how successful you’re going to be, you just you can’t control that.

I think enjoying what you do and the people you’re around must really be important?

Yeah, I mean every band I think would try to have a different interpretation of how their careers go and you know, whether they’re satisfied, dissatisfied … there’s people who have made a sh*tload of money, been real successful, who are still dissatisfied and people who didn’t do as much who are very fulfilled.

So do you feel fulfilled in your career?

Yeah because I don’t want to look back on my life and go.

‘I didn’t do it, I didn’t get there, I didn’t achieve that’. I think that would be a crappy way to live even taking away music … I think my dad said that one time to me in my life when I was a younger man
and he seemed like at one point he was unfulfilled about his life and I remember that making me feel quite 
sad for him and questioning myself probably and I don’t want to do that. I don’t feel that way at all about my life, I feel pretty lucky.

So what’s next for you and Armored Saint?

Um, well we were just having a discussion about that, me and Joey. I don’t know for sure yet, we’ve a couple more shows at the end of May in America. You know there’s some territories that we love to go play that we’ve yet to play in our history so it would be cool to be able to do that, some places in Europe, Scandinavia, Eastern Block.

You know we’ve never been to South America? Three fifths of this band is Mexican! And we’ve never even played Mexico which is ridiculous considering that’s our neighbour in America! We’d like to do that. There’s still some things that we want to do and really to come back and play the places that we just played as well.

I guess it would be cool to make a new record one day but we’re not really thinking about that quite yet.

But I think that we just want to make something that is really good and has a lot of integrity.
As long as that happens, when it happens. You know we’re no spring chickens, we’re not kidding ourselves, 
we haven’t much time on our side when it comes to having a long career as we’re a bunch of guys 
in our fifty’s but that being said I think we kind of just do it at our pace and I think if we did 
something that was kind of forced or  too soon then it might sacrifice the quality of it.

What advice would you give to a band that was just starting up now then?
Listen to lots of different music, be a connoisseur of a lot of music and let that inspire you.

Play from the heart.

Do it for the right reasons, find people that you bond with and try to stay with them.

Just do it for the right reasons, you know. Obviously like I said everybody wants to have a successful career. The music business has changed dramatically since I started so I wouldn’t be able to give advice based on the business because I’m like a dinosaur and the things that we did … it’s changed a lot! Record sales? Well they suck and it really makes me sad but you know you can still be a great musician and do your thing and be true to yourself.

With so much having changed over the years in record sales, I guess a lot more of it now is in live shows and tours?

Yeah I think that you know live performances are still something that people still want to see because you can’t get that any other way, you can look at YouTube videos but it’s not the same. I love going to see bands still and I still love buying records and CDs and vinyl! To me it’s important, I find that when I download something onto my hard drive and stuff I don’t feel as connected as if I go and get something that’s a record or even a CD and look at the artwork and I don’t know, I have to feel like it’s tangible. But that’s me! I’m also an older guy! But however you purchase music just get it and listen to it.

The rest of the guys are at the pub, are you going to go and join them?

Well I’m going to go and chill in our dressing room and maybe not talk for a couple of hours, if I go to the pub I’m going to be yelling!

Do you have any ‘rituals’ before a gig?
I just warm up, sing a few songs from the set as I feel it helps me warm into it and then run. Go.

Interview: Arianna Piani

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