Alan Bernhoft Profile & Interview with author Jude Kessler

1. Alan, you and I first met when I saw you on a video doing a FANTASTIC John Lennon impersonation. How did you get involved in “being John”? Do you still take acting gigs as John?

I remember seeing the Beatles as a kid and immediately relating to John. I’m not exactly sure what it was specifically. He just never seemed like a star, although he was the ultimate star, he always seemed like a regular guy – a little scruffy with flaws. Those little flaws made his art more human and greater than most. For example it’s his slight “off pitch” quality that makes those incredible harmonics when his voice is double-tracked, especially in the recordings during the Beatlemania years. His guitar was usually a little out of tune as well – just one string, supposedly so his auntie could tell which guitar was him when she heard the songs on the radio.

I’ve always found his voice amazingly attractive – like a big smile, very happy and reassuring. That pure golden tone, colored with a snarling edge that he could turn on and off at will. And all that vulnerability! So I was singing along to The Beatles, especially to the “John” songs, all the time.

The first time I actually sang a Lennon vocal in front of an audience was at a high school talent show. My band did “A Hard Day’s Night,” which I sang from behind the drums. (I was a drummer at the time- hadn’t picked up the guitar yet.) The audience just went nuts! It was the first time I experienced that kind of energy at a show. (After the show was pretty exciting as well.) I remember hearing a recording of the show later and girls saying, “You sound just like him!”

I still perform as Lennon these days with Neil Burg’s IMAGINE, the original West Coast Beatles tribute band. A lot of amazing talents have performed in that band over the years. I also recently had a ball performing a solo Lennon show for a book release party for John Borack’s John Lennon – Life Is What Happens.

2. I have all four of your Beatlesque CD’s, and you do have that Beatles sound…that Merseybeat manner. How long have you been writing and recording your own songs? Why Beatlesque? 

I’ve been writing and recording my original songs as long as I can remember. As home recording equipment got better and cheaper, my home recordings improved. In fact, a song I recorded completely at home, “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby,” was used in a BBC commercial for the Harry Hill show last year. I was very flattered that the Brits had to come to an American for a Beatlesque sound.

I’ve played in dozens of original bands, and I’ve always had a stockpile of songs that I could rarely get other musicians to play because they were “too Beatlesque.” I realized many of them worked as children’s songs, so I began using them on my Playdate Children’s Radio Show, an original interactive show for kids which aired for about a year every Saturday morning on Evolving Artist Internet Radio, a network developed by Craig Frand and Derek Trembley, who were way ahead of their time.

After the success of the movie, “Desperately Seeking Paul McCartney,” which features six of my Beatles-like original songs, I decided to put those tunes out as a set that was deliberately “Beatlesque” in title and content, and it did very well

“Beatlesque One” was chosen as one of that year’s top CDs by Goldmine Magazine. So I followed with a second (“Beatlesque Too”) which was all 1964-sounding “Beatlemania” style material. Then “Beatlesque Three,” which is more like the ’66- ’67 period. “Beatlesque Four” will be out by late 2011. It’s definitely the most psychedelic of the series, which I really like.

3. Where are your CD’s available? Do you have a website?
My main website is www.alanbernhoft.com. All my CDs are available at CDBaby and iTunes and many other places on the web.

I have thirteen releases total, including “Chromonica Jazz”  of which I’m extremely proud. It’s a jazz CD I produced featuring my Uncle George (Uncle G’erge!) on jazz harmonica and my friend and mentor, Hal Blaine, as guest drummer on four tunes. David Kaufman (of “Imagine”) and I round out the band on guitars, bass and drums

4. As you and I got to know one another, you shared with me a rather touching video that you produced about a lady trying to meet Paul McCartney. Tell us about that.

The feature, “Desperately Seeking Paul McCartney” was almost a complete film when I became involved. Mark Cushman and Ruth Anson put together a brilliant, funny, insider’s look at the cut throat world of “reality television” interlaced with the true story of Ruth’s Beatles interview from 1966 when Paul asked her to marry him. My long time collaborator Jeff Toscynski (one of the top Paul McCartneys in the Tribute world) suggested my songs as they couldn’t afford real Beatles tracks in the film. Mark heard some of my tracks, and the rest is Beatlesque history.

5. One of the ventures I MOST enjoyed was your DVD, an updated version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. When and where did you film that, and can people still get it today?

“The Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde Rock ‘N Roll Musical.”

Yes, that’s my baby, where I put it all on the line – my acting, screenwriting, singing, songwriting, and producing. It was a super low budget labor of love. It was shot here in Los Angeles, without permits, and it was an incredible experience.

The director, Andre Champagne, who also produced and edited the film, really took the project under his wing and helped make it happen. We met working together at Sonora Recording Studios in Los Angeles. One day, when I was delivering a piece of gear to him, I toured his home studio. I liked what I saw and heard…and ended up recording the entire soundtrack there over a period of a few months. It wasn’t until I mentioned I wanted to make it into a film that I found out Andre had been to film school and wanted to direct.

The film is distributed by Elite Disk, and available at Amazon, Netflix, Blockbuster, etc.

6. Okay, the BIG question: You’re coming out with a new novel in October…a horror novel just in time for Halloween. What’s the basic plot (don’t tell us too much!!) and what age group would like it? Where can we get it?

It’s an anthology called Hell Comes To Hollywood, a collection of short horror stories relating to Hollywood. My contribution is called “The Legend of Sleepy Hollywood,” and it’s about a strange creature prowling the alleyways of Hollywood at night slicing people’s heads off.  Sounds suitable for ALL ages, right?

Eric Miller, the publisher of the anthology, was aware of my horror writing abilities through the Jekyll & Hyde film and via a screenplay that I have floating around Hollywood, “The Axeman of New Orleans,” a true story, turn-of-the-century horror film that was almost made by a production company Eric was working with a few years back.

7. Acting, impersonating John, songwriting and singing, writing…what is your favorite creative medium?

That’s a tough one – like trying to say which child is your favorite. I really get enormous satisfaction and a deep, resonating “high” from all the art forms I attempt. It’s definitely an addiction.
Acting has been particularly great lately. I’ve just signed with a fantastic agent, Cynthia Barry, and you should be seeing me on television and/or the big screen in the near future. I’m currently appearing in two web series, Femvamp.com, created by Guil Claveria, and Pimpweasel.com, based on Hayden Black’s “Goodnight Burbank” series that was recently picked up for television. I’ve also produced a series of comedy videos for a friend’s real estate company, Property Masters Realty, which I really enjoy making.

Performing live is always a thrill, whether it’s a crowd of a thousand or just a small club. I also get the same high recording my music in my studio, or editing a video, or writing. Or just sitting back at the drums and jamming away for an hour or so. The drums are where it all started for me – very satisfying.

I also enjoy collaborating with other artists – I still write and record with other people, though I haven’t had an original band in years. When I play live, it’s usually as Lennon.

I love doing music for film, and was fortunate enough to have several pieces in the award-winning short film Me, You, A Bag & Bamboo by filmmaker Lara Everly, who has since become a regular collaborator. We’ve worked together on each other’s projects countless times. I’ve also continued to work with Andre Champagne through the years on all sorts of interesting films and music projects.

 

It all comes down to leaving a unique body of work – that’s your responsibility as an artist…something for everyone else to sort through and hopefully enjoy, when you’re long gone. That’s what I’ve tried to do. That’s what all my heroes have done. Especially that guy named John.

Alan on IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1480662/ 

~ by abernhoft on October 11, 2011.

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