To read all of the interviews in our “questions with” series, go here.
Tim Bluhm lives the life of a humble rolling stone, performing across the country with his various bands and often having to travel solo in the middle of tours to support different projects. When we spoke on the phone yesterday, he was enjoying a few days off at home in San Fransisco after touring with The Gramblers (his wife Nicki’s band). He wasn’t able to rest long though, since he’s now back on the road with The Mother Hips, his California-inspired folk group that’s celebrating more than two decades together. In rock band years, that’s close to a century.
“I feel great,” Bluhm says. “I mean there’s not that many bands that can say that. We’ve been lucky to get along with each other and that’s the main thing, really. I think usually when bands break up it’s because they’re in debt or they can’t stand each other. Neither one of those things has happened to us so I feel pretty lucky. It’s still fun.”
Bluhm will be joining The Mother Hips on stage tonight at Dan’s Silverleaf with support from The Charlie Shafter Band. So, if a rocking Valentine’s Day is what you’re in the mood for, look no further. I got a quick preview of what’s to come from Bluhm when we spoke the other day.
FrontRow: What is the best concert and the worst concert you have ever been to?
Tim Bluhm: The best concert I ever went to was probably Levon Helm at The Independent in San Francisco a couple of years ago. It was just amazing, the band sounded so good. Just really great musicians. Actually, Greg and I opened that show and then we got to watch, so it was really amazing.
The worst concert, maybe, I’ve ever been to a long time ago was Pavement at a place called The Whispering Clam in Chico when I was probably like 20 years old. I really liked Steve Malkmus and I liked Pavement a lot and they were playing at our local place, so we went down to see them and they were just…they were just drunk. They just didn’t sound very good so I left, but I love that band. The one time I got to see them play and…
FR: What was the first movie you saw in the theaters?
TB: It was probably The Wiz. You know, with Michael Jackson and Diana Ross? I went to see that in Los Angeles where I grew up and it was crazy, all these people in the aisles just dancing their asses off. It made an impression on me.
FR: If you were auditioning for a voice competition show, which song would you choose to sing?
TB: Probably like “Islands In The Stream” by Kenny Rogers. But, it was written by Barry Gibb and Barry Gibb is pretty much my hero of all heroes. Besides Neil Young.
FR: What’s the closest you have ever come to dying?
TB: There have been a lot of times. Probably the closest I ever came to dying was when I used to be really into rock climbing – not anymore, but I used to be super into it. It’s kind of dangerous though (laughs). I was climbing something called Charlotte Dome in southern Sierra with my girlfriend at the time, and we got off route and got into some really dangerous terrain where there was no way to protect yourself. We were really high up, and it was really hard climbing. I just had to go into my survival brain and we didn’t even talk for like three hours. She was just like crying, and we were just climbing and it felt really good when we made it out of that one.
FR: If you could choose any decade to live in, which would it be?
TB: I suppose they’re all sort of the same but like everyone always thinks that other decades are better than the one we’re in. I think I like this decade fine, but I just wish there were fewer people that lived around here. So, I would say maybe the…I don’t know like…it’s hard to say because you want it to be less crowded but you also want it to have modern conveniences and modern medicine and stuff like that. That’s a really tough question, but maybe something like before surfing got popular in California. Maybe like the 20’s or something in southern California.
FR: What was your favorite toy as a kid?
TB: My favorite toy was probably Lincoln Logs. I really liked Legos, too. But, I had this Snoopy doll and he was definitely my favorite. I still have him. He’s really dirty though, it’s kind of nasty. I’ve probably had him for like 38 years or something.
FR: Should the United States adopt a national healthcare system similar to the United Kingdom or Canada?
TB: I don’t know enough about those things, but it sure seems like it to me. I’m bummed on mine. I have to pay so much money for my wife’s and my healthcare and it still costs me so much money when I have to go to the doctor. It just pisses me off so bad. I know that the doctors aren’t necessarily making that money, but someone is and it’s pretty disgusting if you ask me. So I don’t know what the solution is, but there’s got to be something better than what we have going on now.
FR: If global warming melted the ice caps covering 90 percent of the known world with water, what city would you hope was spared so you could live there?
TB: Well, I mean, San Francisco is my favorite city. My house would be underwater because I live right at the beach, but all I would have to do is move like 10 blocks inland and I’d be cool.
FR: If you could change one law — make something that is illegal legal, or something legal illegal — what would it be?
TB: That’s a great question. I think maybe smoking cigarettes should be illegal, although I don’t really care. I’m pretty happy with a lot of laws. There’s better things to talk about than that, for sure, but I’m pretty happy with the way things are going right now.
I don’t really care about pot either way. Maybe if they made pot legal, the government could get some more taxes from it. But it’s so ubiquitous, it’s like who cares. It’s not going to change whatever, it’s just stupid. But cigarettes are just so much more harmful though. They’re overtly harmful to people’s health and the people that are smoking and you get the second hand stuff. I’m not even saying I wouldn’t smoke one now and then because it is pleasurable. But, it sucks when you just have to be in a bunch of smoke. There’s still certain clubs in a bunch of states that allow smoking and it’s just awful, awful, awful.
FR: If you weren’t playing music and had the talent and circumstances to do anything else, what would it be?
TB: Well, I thought about being a pro surfer. Those guys seem like they have a pretty good time. But, it’s so much pressure and the older I get, the less I like to be scared and have a lot of pressure on me (laughs). And so, I don’t know, those guys make it look so easy, but I bet it’s kind of intense. It’s crazy, they have to surf giant waves and they have to like out-do their competitors. But it seems pretty cool.
I wanted to be a doctor when I was younger but I wasn’t smart enough to do that.
FR: What’s on your playlist right now?
TB: Last night I listened to a Merle Haggard record about ten times in a row. I just kept flipping it over, it was “If We Make It Through December.” He’s kind of one of my favorite musicians of all time. I also listened to Nat King Cole, Glen Campbell, The Carpenters, Dillard and Clark. I was listening to some Bob Marley yesterday, too.