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Broadside Electric • 321 Grayling Ave., Narberth, PA  19072
+1 (610) 667-9216 • info@broadside.org

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Broadside Electric has existed in various forms since 1990. The original band included Tom Rhoads, Jim Speer, and Helene Zisook, who have remained in the band ever since, plus Rachel Hall, a concertina player. This quartet established the musical direction of the band, with emphasis on traditional music of Britain and Ireland.

Tom Rhoads talk about the formation of the first band in 1990:

Jim:So how did you first hear about this band, Tom?
Tom:Well, I had this idea during my year off. I had started playing, I got interested in traditional music right about the time that I decided I had to take time off from Haverford.
Ashley:You decided you had to take time off?
Amy:So you became a gypsy wanderer and strolled the streets.
Tom:Something like that, yeah.
Jim:You were working in a pet shop.
Helene:Toy store?
Tom:It was two thirds pet shop and the rest was a toy store or game store. But after I started my year off from Haverford I went over to England and I had spent the previous year slowly discovering a lot of English folk rock records and …
Ashley:Wait a second, I need to clarify that. Before that, you hadn't been exposed to that or was that something –
Tom:Not really, no. I used to listen to folk music from a very early age but not –
Ashley:But you never heard Jethro Tull or anything similar?
Tom:I heard Tull. Tull was sort of the entry point actually. But I got interested in a certain song and I went and bought a Steeleye Span record that had that song on it.
Jim:Didn't your parents have all those albums?
Tom:Steeleye Span? No, not a single one. That was all my stuff. They had Joan Baez up the wazoo. They had every Joan Baez album from her first one to about sometime in the late seventies, which is a lot of records. That's about fifteen, sixteen albums. Where was I going with that?
Ashley:You were on hiatus, you went to England –
Tom:Yeah, I went to England, and while I was there, I went to Cropredy. [Cropredy, located in Oxfordshire, is the site of Fairport Convention's Annual Reunion Festival]
Ashley:You went to Cropredy?!
Tom:Yeah, and that turned me on pretty good.
Ashley:You saw Fairport and everything?
Tom:And Steeleye Span was there too. It was a good show.
Ashley:So now you were hooked.
Tom:That got me into it some more, yeah. I was sort of thinking about … anyway, the next year, I was working in this pet store, I was taking time off, and I started driving down to see Jim on the weekends and we borrowed Alan Rose's four track and started recording stuff. And so we recorded, well, everything.
Jim:All kinds of really silly stuff.
Tom:A lot of bizarre stuff. But we did some traditional stuff in that batch of things and one of … there was an embryonic version of "New York Girls."
Jim:Interestingly, it already had that little pause in the music after the "stopped at forty-four."
Tom:I think it's because I missed the strum on the guitar.
Ashley:And it stayed!
Tom:Yeah. Well I know it went away and then we brought it back. We didn't always do that.
Ashley:"You heard it first. The origins of obscure pauses and …"
Tom:"… bits of our arrangements." It happened by accident.
Ashley:Speaking of origins …
Tom:Jim and I had played in Howling Frog before and played as a duo once or twice. And I said: "We should form a band." I wanted to try and do something similar to the records I was listening to, because I was listening to Please To See the King a lot, and I thought: "This is a sound I'm really into. Maybe I should try and do this." So I wrote to Rachel Hall who was in Scotland at the time, on her year abroad and asked her if she wanted to join this band.
Tom:And you put up signs.
Jim:We put up signs and we auditioned a whole mess of people.
Ashley:How many people did you audition?
Jim:Oh …
Tom:A couple.
Jim:Three or four [laughter].
Tom:There was a flautist/songwriter, and we auditioned a drummer.
Tom:But we decided –
Ashley:Wait. You auditioned a drummer?
Tom:Yes, but we decided we'd stick with a quartet. We already had Helene at that point, I think. And we auditioned a couple other people too.
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Forming the Band | Helene Joins | From 1991-1997 | Ashley Meets B.E. | Amy Meets B.E. | Ashley and Amy Join | The Philadelphia Folk Festival | It's New All Over Again | Adding Drums | Fun with Woodwinds | Arranging | Traditional Music | Complete Interview
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