conversation with a musical nomad
by Troy Johnson
Bradley Fish has become the ultimate nomad. It makes sense though, he’s been perfecting it most of his adult life along with his passion, music.
A musical chameleon with a music degree to match, Bradley left his native Illinois for the much more liberal Madison, Wisconsin in the mid 1990’s and literally lived in a tent in a friend’s back yard while giving guitar lessons to local students. He also played many a night on State Street and could always be spotted with a guitar, head full of dreadlocks and a tie-dye t-shirt.
Eventually, the success of lessons, shows and street playing allowed him to set up his own place and live life from music. His solo shows were “one man band” style, and he wore bells, shakers and other noise makers on his legs and feet and play guitar, dulcimer, Chinese zither and whatever other instrument he could find. Bradley is also part comedian and his laugh is infectious. Some of his videos on YouTube feature this “humor” with his controversial song “Jewish Girl Blues.” Totally tongue in cheek, the song pokes fun at the plight of Jewish men who are pressured by old tradition to find and marry a Jewish girl, only in this video, he marries a few to cover the bases.
Besides playing as a one man band/comedian, Bradley has been in a ton of bands. In the mid-nineties, Bradley enlisted the help of a plethora of local Madison all-stars to play in his band, The Aquarium Conspiracy, and record on his first album. After some success it was hard to keep the “band” booked as scheduling of “all-stars” isn’t so easy.
The late nineties put the hippy in Bradley out to dry when he hooked up with Rökker, Philly, Mike McGinnis and Jeff Muendel to re-package the old Aquarium Conspiracy music plus new songs to a heavier format… a ROCK BAND called Bradley Fish’s Electrifried Band. Zany publicity stunts propelled his popularity, but something still seemed missing.
Following his mother’s advice to visit Israel, Bradley sold off most of his belongings, shipped the guitar and Marshall amp to his new home in Tel Aviv where he would work for the high-level audio software company Waves as well as get signed to Sony Records to sell CD’s full of loops. But Tel Aviv didn’t suit him so off to Jerusalem he went where he started a recording studio in his apartment just off the market. But the nomad in him would strike again.
Before he sold off all his belongings and shipped the rest back to the states, Bradley recorded his new album “Time To Rise”. Set to be released on October 12th at the High Noon Saloon in Madison, “Time To Rise” will take Bradley across the country as he promotes and tours in total DIY fashion. You see, Bradley purchased a big, purple van which you can’t miss. Instead of the tent, or an apartment or home, he has trimmed his possessions to the minimum and uses a fusion of old and new technologies to make the “Purple People Eater”, his fond name for it, into a mobile home/office, decreasing his lodging expense.
Bradley also went back to his one-man-band show but this time it’s a complete mix of analog and digital as he uses the laptop to control the layers of his improvisational playing on the many different instruments in his possession. Guitar and dulcimer remain his favorites while he incorporates bass, drum loops and “other” sounds into his repertoire.
Here is my conversation with adventure looping musician Bradley Fish. He is back in the Midwest after his 6 year residence in Israel and touring this fall with a new album.
Maximum Ink: Bradley, Are you a one man show or would you rather mash with others?
Bradley Fish: I love playing in bands. I must have been in a few hundred of them, practically every style you can imagine and have learned from a ton of great musicians over the years. The thing is, bands have a 99.9% chance of breaking up and solo acts are the inverse of that. So in a business that’s already known for being very unstable, being a solo act lets me enjoy a certain degree of stability. Plus, as a solo act, I can decide to rehearse spontaneously at 4 in the morning, make radical changes in a musical direction, or play a freaky gig for naked desert-trance-hippies for gas money and organic yogurt - without consulting or convincing anyone and still keep the act together for years on end.