Interview with Bergman Broom by Dana Cooke    

Dennis Friscia, who now performs as Bergman Broom, began writing songs as early as 1966, in Brooklyn. He came to Syracuse in 1977 and played in a few small groups, including the well-remembered Beverages. The years 1984-1989 were "my most serious solo period," he says, during which time he opened for the likes of Liz Taylor, the Roches, and Suzanne Vega - and during which time he formed Dennis Friscia and the Oh So Sensitive Sidemen, a six-piece combo delivering Friscia originals with touches of jazz and rock. It was - and remains - one of Syracuse's best folk/pop groups. Recordings have included "Sextuplets" (1986), "Starcheye Coatman Sessions" (1989), "Quarrel With The Universe" (1991), "Dinosaur Songs" (1992), "Crevices" (1995), and "9 Dinosaur Songs" (2000).  All of which makes Friscia the area's dean of songwriters in the folk/acoustic vein and, at the same time, one of its most charming curmudgeons on the topic of Syracuse folk.  We contacted him by e-mail to get his take on everything, and he held no punches.

Q: "Tell us about your new group."

"The Bergman Broom Ensemble is Bergman Broom, vocals/acoustic guitar/piano; John Dancks, electric bass; Robert 'The Elf' Elfenbein, lead guitar; and Mark Dundee, drums and percussion. I put together a back-up band because the new material could not be properly fleshed out within the confines of the singer-guitar (or singer-keyboard) format.  I get bored easily without other musician vessels for the songs to bounce around in.  Plus, it's more interesting to an audience, I think. Most solo acts make me fidgety after a few songs.  I'd hate to do that to people...."
Q. "Is there any particular characteristic of your current songs - either musical or lyrical - that stands out from the earlier ones?"
"The type of songs I'm writing now cut more visceral grooves - i.e., they are less topical and less audience-oriented than the earlier stuff - not that they were ever too audience-driven to start with. I feel that the new songs reflect a more solitary and emotional recent few years. I previously have more greatly relied on being clever, not that there's anything wrong with that. It's just a little shift in trajectory...

I have about 150 songs that I still consider meaningful and performable. They simply follow the curvature in the life experience. They fade away and reappear like fish in a pond."

Q. "What's one of your favorite new songs about?"
"I have a new one called "The Long Fall Called Winter." It's a song that could have only been written at this middleage. The way losing the love of a woman hits at this time is not the way you deal with it, say, 10 or 20 years earlier. So the song reflects these feelings from the perspective ofthis older person, driving around late at night, thinking back on his life, all of this in the face of that behemoth, mortality."
Q. "Do you see your songs accomplishing more lyrically than the average pop song?"
"Yes, by all means. But I also believe the musical sophistication is just as important in characterizing the songs. My chords, key modulations,voicings are generally way beyond the average acoustic artist. I just think I have a larger harmonic vocabulary, a more intricate one than most singer, songwriters I hear. Call it age, time, or just DNA, but I think there is a strong musical signature, as well.

Also keep in mind that I'm not trying to be commercial."

Q. "Tell us about any big projects that you have in the works. Another album?"
"Two new CDs, one tentatively titled "Songs No One Else Likes." The other project is called "Home Sweet Motel.""
Q. "Can you summarize in any way what you try to bring to your lyrics - what maybe sets you apart as a lyricist?"

"They're baroque.  They have great range, punch.  And they fall all over themselves in metaphor, not to mention the most important thing: an underpinning of truth, emotional truth.  I try to relay, with any luck, some universal emotional thing in the gut vicinity."
Bergman Broome