Brian Hardgroove is the bassist for Public Enemy (inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in December 2012), but his musical talents extend far beyond one instrument, one band. Hardgroove is an accomplished musician, producer, radio host and teacher. After relocating to Santa Fe from New York City, Hardgroove immediately lent his talents to the local music scene – hosting radio shows, becoming an artist-in-residence at Santa Fe University of Art and Design and playing an instrumental part in SFUAD’s Artists for Social Change program. All that, while still touring the world and producing work for Grammy award winning artists and up-and-coming artists as far away as China. I was fortunate to sit down for lunch with Brian and talk with him about music and Santa Fe.
Q: How did you decide to be a musician?
A: When I was 14, I won tickets on a radio station contest to an Earth, Wind and Fire concert and that concert was an epiphany to me. I KNEW I should/would be a musician. Talent was not an issue. It was just something I knew I needed to do (when I was younger – I thought I would become a policeman so this was a change in direction).
Q: You’ve produced two of the biggest punk bands in China. What’s your favorite thing about working with artists in other countries and genres?
A: I have thought from early on that we live in a troubled world. So, I knew I wanted to do good or do something good. Public Enemy played the Beijing Pop Festival in 2007 and I stayed afterwards. Due to my relationship with Gibson Guitars, they introduced me to local bands. From that introduction, I met these musicians and produced records for them – Brain Failure and Demerit. These kids are incredibly committed, very serious about music and if they do not succeed, are doomed to a life of poverty in China. Deep down, they are no different than young Americans in their commitment to their music. Public Enemy has been critical about our government which is not so different from these Chinese bands doing the same. They were influenced by Public Enemy so I felt a responsibility to work with them and help them.
Q: You are an artist in residence at Santa Fe University of Art and Design and have had a big role in its Artists for Positive Social Change. How did this come about?
A: David Scheinbaum is a great photographer who teaches at SFUAD. David has photographed a lot of hip hop artists and photographed Public Enemy so he was my connection to the University. David got Public Enemy to come to campus for a concert. In connection with this I became involved since I live in Santa Fe. I worked with the University and was able to select students from the University who auditioned to be in a Hip hop group. These students came together and worked with me, rehearsed and practiced and ended up as the opening act for Public Enemy when we played on campus. I have been involved with Artists for Positive Social Change, which enables students at the University to interact first hand with successful artists so they can see that they too can be part of social change in our country. The members of Public Enemy went into some of the classes and interacted with the students. I think this program provides a good opportunity for the students to realize that, like members of Public Enemy, they too, can impact social change positively. After this first foray with the Artists for Positive Social Change program, I am now an Artist in Residence at the University and this role is still unfolding and morphing so we will see where it goes.
Q: With the proliferation of satellite radio stations and streaming music is there still a place for local radio?
A: Absolutely as it is THE ONLY vehicle left that supports local artists and there will always be a need for this.
Q: As someone who could live anywhere in the world, what inspired you to relocate from NYC to Santa Fe?
A: A woman, or two if you count my daughter, also. My wife grew up in San Francisco and in Santa Fe and when we were looking at schools for our daughter, we knew we wanted to get out of NYC. The Santa Fe Waldorf School looked like it would provide a good education for our daughter. And my wife’s father lives here, so since we had lived in NY near my family, I thought it was my turn to live near hers. It has been a good decision.
Q: How does Santa Fe’s music scene compare to other places?
A: There are many extremely talented musicians here but no real professional opportunities. That’s why getting involved with the Santa Fe University of Art and Design has ended up being such a great thing for me.
Q: What is your favorite song?
A: I have two. A Family Affair – Sly and the Family Stone and Jeff Beck’s Blue Wind from the Wired album.
Q: Any weird/interesting things from being in LA and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month?
A: The highlight was when I was sitting in the green room before the event started. Jackson Browne sauntered in and we’d met briefly before but got into a good conversation. Then John Fogerty came in, and then Tom Petty. The four of us had a great conversation, and all I kept thinking was what am amazing and talented group of songwriters I was with. That was great. Harry Belafonte was the one that introduced/inducted us into the Hall of Fame and he has certainly been through all of the history in marching with Dr. King and is the real deal. In his introduction, he mentioned that he had mentored Public Enemy and this was an amazing thing to hear.